Teacher appeals conviction for molesting student

Syracuse, New York (AP) 9-07

A former music teacher found guilty of molesting a student at the Onondaga Indian Nation School has appealed his conviction.

Alberto Scerbo contends that the prosecution misrepresented the facts and the jury did not follow the law in reaching a compromise verdict, said his defense lawyer, Edward Menkin.

Scerbo, 45, of Clay, is to be sentenced Oct. 10. He faces up to seven years in prison.

The father of two was convicted in August of one felony count of first-degree sexual abuse and one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child in the molestation of a 7-year-old girl at the reservation school.

He originally was accused in a 35-count indictment of endangering 17 girls and molesting 16 of them between September 2002 and December 2006. However, Onondaga County Judge William Walsh dismissed some of the charges before and during Scerbo’s trial and the jury acquitted Scerbo of 17 of the remaining 19 counts against him.

In his appeal papers, Menkin argued that Scerbo was convicted on “the uncorroborated testimony” of one 7-year-old child whose testimony was largely consistent with that of the other victims for whom charges were dismissed or Scerbo was acquitted.

Menkin contended the verdict was “obviously a compromise . . . to reconcile the emotionally and inflammatory nature of the allegations with the reality that the prosecution’s case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He said the jurors had been instructed by Walsh that they could not consider evidence relating to one victim as evidence to support charges involving any other victim.

Menkin said the jury violated that instruction, arguing there was a complete lack of any evidence to support a finding that Scerbo acted to achieve sexual gratification. That is a necessary element to the sexual abuse conviction and its absence warrants overturning the conviction, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Gary Dawson declined comment.

During his trial, Scerbo took the witness stand to adamantly deny that he sexually molested any of the girls. Scerbo admitted that he sometimes allowed students to sit on his lap but never received any sexual gratification from it.

Thirteen girls, ranging in age from 7 to 14, testified that Scerbo touched them through their clothing as they sat on his lap in the back of a darkened room while he showed movies or videos to the class.

Scerbo originally was charged with having sexual contact with two girls, ages 7 and 8. But the list of victims grew as deputies investigated the case.

Information from: The Syracuse Post-Standard, www.syracuse.com