Teacher rape victim: 'He took away my innocence as a child'
An 18-year-old woman on Thursday confronted the former Lawrence Woodmere Academy teacher who admitted to raping her when she was his student, saying in court that the “master manipulator” used the power of his position to molest her for years.
“He took away my innocence as a child,” the victim told a judge as Daniel McMenamin appeared in Nassau County Court for sentencing. “He made me into an outcast.”
McMenamin, 33, of Valley Stream, pleaded guilty in April to a second-degree rape charge and a second-degree charge of criminal sexual act.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald meted out a 10-year probation sentence Thursday to McMenamin under terms of a plea bargain that the prosecution and defense had negotiated and the victim approved.
Police said at the time of the defendant's October arrest that he’d had a sexual relationship with a student for nearly three years after starting to assault her in November 2014 when she was 14.
That young woman trembled and cried at times in court Thursday, speaking from a podium not far from the defense table where her disgraced former teacher sat with his attorneys.
She said McMenamin first preyed on her when she was a lonely freshman transfer student, coming over as she sat alone at a lunch table to make her a feel as if she had an ally.
But the victim said he later perverted their bond into what became a sordid secret that forced her to push away friends and family and “suffer in silence.”
McMenamin would come to class and tell her his fantasies of why they should be together, and sneak her into his car and his home, according to the victim.
She said the teacher controlled her and she “wasted” her adolescence, making her miss out on friendships and the chance to build confidence in herself as the abuse continued until she was 17.
“He used the power of being my teacher to manipulate me,” the victim said.
Now nearly 19, she also put some blame on the private Woodmere school, saying the headmaster, other teachers and coaches "knew something inappropriate was going on" between her and McMenamin but didn’t intervene.
“They all chose to look the other way,” she said.
The president of the school's board of trustees, attorney Vincent Gerbino, released a statement later saying the academy "puts the well-being of our students first" and that "any inappropriate contact between teachers and students is unacceptable and has no place in any school."
The statement added: “New leadership is in place and we worked with an independent third party to develop and provide additional training and protocols to help prevent unacceptable behavior from occurring. We are deeply committed to providing a safe, supportive and quality learning experience for our students.”
The victim also said in court Thursday that she takes psychiatric medication and is going through therapy while coping with panic and anxiety, feelings she said make her “completely unable” to withstand a trial.
The judge said Thursday he was “torn” about giving a probation sentence to McMenamin, but was doing so because he wanted the victim to be able “to move on with her life.”
Prosecutor Debra Bresnahan told him that it was the wishes of the victim that compelled the Nassau District Attorney’s Office to agree to a probation deal.
A district attorney’s office spokeswoman said in a statement later that prosecutors first sought a 10-year prison sentence, but agreed to the plea bargain when the “brave survivor” said she couldn’t testify after coming forward to report the abuse.
“Because of her bravery,” the statement added, “McMenamin will never step foot into another classroom, and the community will be on notice for the rest of his life that he is a sexual predator.”
As part of the plea bargain, McMenamin surrendered his New York State teaching license.
The judge Thursday also said it was “especially upsetting” that while the rape case was pending, authorities arrested McMenamin in a separate child endangerment case.
The former teacher made inappropriate sexual comments to a child while working as a tutor, the judge said.
The district attorney’s office said later that McMenamin pleaded guilty on the day of his March 26 arrest in that case and got a conditional discharge. That means he’ll face no further punishment if he stays out of trouble for a year.
The judge Thursday also designated McMenamin as a Level 2 sex offender and signed an order compelling him not to contact his former student.
The ex-teacher addressed the judge briefly Thursday, speaking of remorse in a voice that was barely audible in the Mineola courtroom.
But the victim’s words were unmistakable as she delivered a final message to her former abuser.
“That fact that you admitted to being a rapist and child molester will help me move on in my life,” she said. “...Karma is real and I have confidence that the guilt will soon eat you alive.”
McMenamin did not answer questions while leaving court.
One of his attorneys, Edward Sapone, said: “Dan appreciates the opportunity to move on from this case and move into his new life and begin his new career.”