ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A judge dropped all charges against a former teacher accused of having sex with a student.
The case was being prosecuted by the New York State Justice Center, but the judge said the agency didn’t have the authority. The Justice Center was created a few years ago by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office as a law enforcement agency and an advocate for people with special needs.
After the judge’s ruling, its authority is in question.
“It’s been a nightmare,” defense attorney Michael Pollok said.
Pollok’s client, Marina Viviani, was accused of having sex with a student in 2014 while she was a teacher at the all-boys LaSalle School in Albany. But Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin dismissed all charges against her.
“My client is ecstatic on the one hand that this is over with,” Pollok said.
The charges were dropped based on the Justice Center not having the authority to prosecute the case. Under the laws of the Justice Center, Breslin said it can prosecute a case with the district attorney holding the primary responsibility.
In his decision, Breslin said: “There is no evidence that the district attorney has retained ultimate prosecutorial authority and responsibility in this case.”
The Justice Center released the following statement in response:
The Justice Center believes that the legislature acted within its authority when it created a special prosecutor in the Justice Center. We are reviewing the decision and considering our options, including appealing the court’s decision.
“The Justice Center now has a lot on its plate,” Pollok said.
Though Breslin didn’t go as far as to say the Justice Center is unconstitutional, his decision could have a major impact and cause others to appeal in past cases with the center.
“This decision, in my opinion, has statewide implications to all the cases that the Justice Center has brought,” Pollok said.
Longtime attorney Arnold Proskin agrees.
“You might just very well find out that the lawyers’ gonna say, ‘Wait a minute. If it was thrown out for that one, it should be thrown out for the one we got prosecuted and convicted on two years ago,’” he said.
Only time will tell. As for Viviani, Pollok called their victory bittersweet.
“She never really had her day in court to vindicate herself,” Pollok said.
In the decision, Breslin said the case cannot be turned over to the district attorney.