Former Greeley Teacher Pleads Guilty in Sexual Abuse Case
The former Horace Greeley High School drama teacher accused of having sexual contact with students agreed to plead guilty Thursday evening to three misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child.
The plea arrangement, announced in New Castle Justice Court between Christopher Schraufnagel and the Westchester County District Attorney’s officem drops the one felony charge of third-degree criminal sex act in exchange for keeping the defendant out of prison.
However, Schraufnagel would face three years of sex offender probation, since two of the three misdemeanor charges involved sexual contact. The probation would subject him to more than 30 conditions, including where he can live and his type of employment, said Assistant District Attorney Mary Clark-DiRusso.
Last year, Schraufnagel had also been charged with six misdemeanors.
New Castle Town Justice Douglas Kraus said he wanted more time to review the plea before signing off on the deal and would notify the defense and prosecution within the next three weeks if there was an obstacle. The parties must return to town court on Sept. 8. Sentencing was set for Nov. 10.
Schraufnagel, who resigned his position from the Chappaqua School District last September after 12 years, could have received up to four years in jail if convicted of the felony charge.
Under the terms of the plea bargain, Schraufnagel, 41, must also relinquish his New York State teacher’s license and there would be orders of protection placed against him so there is no further contact with his victims.
Clark-DiRusso praised the students for having come forward to inform authorities of what happened. She explained that the plea would spare them having to testify against their former teacher.
“We wouldn’t have agreed (to the plea) if we hadn’t spoken to these kids and their parents,” she said. “I’m humbled by the courage of these children.”
Defense attorney Stacey Richman complimented the district attorney’s office for its willingness to negotiate a plea. Schraufnagel has been battling health problems, including recently having undergone multiple surgeries for cancer, she said.
Despite the plea bargain, Schraufnagel’s legal troubles aren’t behind him. Five students and their families have filed a civil lawsuit against the former teacher and the Chappaqua School District. The litigation, first filed in state Supreme Court in May, described how students were allegedly subjected to sexual, verbal and physical abuse and harassment by the teacher while on school grounds and that Schraufnagel provided illegal drugs and alcohol to students.
The attorney for four of the defendants in the civil suit, David Engelsher, was in the courtroom for Thursday evening’s proceedings. He said afterward that having Schraufnagel plead guilty is significant since it is an admission of wrongdoing and the district will have to answer for its inaction.
“This is just one box to check off and now we’re going to go after the school (district) because now we know he’s done this,” Engelsher said. “Some of these kids have been involved with this for five or six years, which means they’ve known about this for five or six years, if not more.”
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/