ITHACA, N.Y. — A former Cayuga Heights teacher is being required to surrender his teaching certificate after pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of a child by having multiple sexual conversations with the boy.
Ryan Harrington pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor in Ithaca City Court Wednesday morning as part of a plea deal that requires him to submit to three years of probation, surrender his teaching certificate and comply with a full stay-away order that bars contact with the child and all his family members for three years.
If Harrington had been convicted of the crime at trial, the prosecution would have sought a year in jail.
Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama said the deal was made with support from the victim’s family.
“The family did not want their child to have to testify at trial…,” Lama said, adding that the family did not want the child to have to face cross-examination or relive the experience.
She said the family was more concerned with securing a conviction and ensuring that Harrington can no longer teach in New York State.
Judge Scott Miller said that if it weren’t for the family’s request to spare the victim from having to testify to the facts in a public courtroom, he likely would not have approved the plea deal. The request weighed heavily on Miller’s decision to allow it.
Harrington confessed to having multiple inappropriate conversations with a young boy over a series of several months in 2015.
According to Lansing court documents, Harrington told a boy how to masturbate and told him how to masturbate using a firefighter emergency scanner. Harrington was previously a volunteer firefighter at the Cayuga Heights Fire Department.
The court documents also include multiple other situations and conversations that were sexual in nature, but the other instances were not brought up in court.
Harrington initially said in court that he thought he had the child’s parents’ “passive permission” to have those kind of conversations, though he added, “…(I) engaged him in more conversation that I should have.”
Lama objected to the confession saying, “There was no permission from the parents. That’s inaccurate.”
She also objected to hints by Harrington that the victim should for some reason be blamed for the nature of the conversation.
Miller did not accept that confession and demanded that Harrington speak to his attorney James Baker about whether Harrington really would accept the plea.
After about 10 minutes, Harrington entered the courtroom again and gave a full confession to the charges against him.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced on April 14 at 11 a.m.
Since the accusations against Harrington were filed, he has been on non-disciplinary paid, administrative leave with the Ithaca City School District, officials previously said.
Cayuga Heights Fire Chief George Tamborelle said, after two heated conversations with an Ithaca Voice reporter, that Harrington resigned at a volunteer firefighter Wednesday morning. Tamborelle also stressed that the crime Harrington was convicted of did not happen while he was on duty.
Tamborelle also said The Ithaca Voice should not contact the Cayuga Heights Fire Department in the future with any questions regarding the fire department or calls for service. He said the reason for the communication ban is that The Ithaca Voice publishes inaccurate information, though he was unable to state any inaccurate facts The Voice has published and not quickly corrected.
He said the decision to not discuss news with The Voice is not related to the coverage of the Harrington case, even though the decision was made while discussing the Harrington case with a Voice reporter.
“I’ve known Ryan for years. I just don’t know what to think about this at this point,” he said.