Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Judge Rejects Plea Deal in Westchester Teacher Sex Abuse Case

A judge has thrown out a sex abuse-case plea deal that prosecutors struck with a former drama teacher at a prestigious Westchester high school, citing concerns over the teacher avoiding sex offender status in the state registry. 

Christopher Schraufnagel, 42, pleaded guilty in August to misdemeanor sexual contact with two Horace Greeley High School students and to endangering the welfare of a third between May 2011 and June 2015.

Under the deal, a felony charge would have been dropped and Schraufnagel would have served probation under sex offender status, avoiding jail time. But he would not have been placed on the state sex offender registry -- something the judge questioned Thursday. 

Parent Sandy Nohavicka's son is not one of the former students Schraufnagel is accused of abusing but says her then 15-year-old son and other students who took his class were exposed to inappropriate behavior.

"My son saw the things he kept in his office," she said. "The pubic hair doll and the sperm in a cup." 

David Engelsher represents four additional plaintiffs who have filed a civil suit against Schraufnagel and the Chappaqua school district. The judge's rejection of the plea deal was both a win and loss for his clients.

"A lot of the parents want to see him go to jail," said Engelsher. "Their children were innocent and now they're damaged." 

But now the defendant who once pleaded guilty starts over in the case with a clean slate.

"His statement that he did it doesn't count," said Nohavicka.

Schraufnagel wasn't in court Thursday. His defense attorney Stacey Richman said he was ill and his immune system too compromised to travel.

She has filed a motion for the judge to reconsider the plea. 

"Everything will be attended to in the courtroom," she said, declining further comment. 

The Chappaqua Central School District has denied any responsibility in the incidents, saying the former students showed "carelessness" and "recklessness" and are partly to blame for any harm they've suffered. 

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