An ex-Babylon High School teacher has been sentenced for having sex with a student. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Anthony Florio; File Footage; Photo Credit: John Roca

A longtime Babylon High School teacher will avoid jail time after a Suffolk judge sentenced him on Monday to 3 years probation for engaging in sex with a 15-year-old student in 2013.

Timothy Harrison, 48, of Oak Beach pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child before acting State Supreme Court Justice Karen Wilutis in September and agreed to surrender his teaching license as part of the agreement. Harrison's conviction comes with sex offender conditions, including computer monitoring, but he is not required to register as a sex offender.

A prosecutor said Monday the former student had been prepared to go to trial before the plea agreement was offered. Harrison was previously charged with two counts of third-degree rape and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual act in addition to the misdemeanor.

"[The former student] believes that [Harrison] should take no more of her time," Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Melissa Grier told the judge. "He has already taken so much from her."

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A longtime Babylon High School teacher will avoid jail time after he was sentenced on Monday to three years probation for engaging in sex with a 15-year-old student in 2013.
  • Timothy Harrison, 48, of Oak Beach, pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and agreed to surrender his teaching license as part of the agreement.
  • Harrison's conviction comes with sex offender conditions, including computer monitoring, but he is not required to register as a sex offender.

Wilutis told Harrison, who declined to speak at sentencing, that he is "getting a very good plea bargain."

"You, sir, violated a very important trust as a teacher," the judge told Harrison.

The Babylon school district released a joint statement Monday from Babylon Superintendent Carisa Manza and board President Linda Jurs.

"The Babylon School District unequivocally condemns the crimes for which the former Babylon employee has been sentenced,” the statement read. “Most importantly, this individual will never again be allowed to teach in a classroom, and will never be allowed anywhere near our schools or our students.”

The police investigation and Harrison’s plea revealed that between September and November 2013, Harrison sent the victim, who was 15 at the time, flirtatious text messages, gave her alcohol and had sex and other sexual conduct with her at his residence in Oak Beach, prosecutors said.

Harrison, a former basketball and lacrosse coach at Babylon Junior-Senior High School, did not have a criminal record. He was arrested March 3, 2022, after a monthslong police investigation.

In 2021, the victim came forward and reported the sexual abuse to Babylon High School officials and then to the Suffolk County Police Department’s Special Victim Section. It was among several allegations raised against Babylon teachers and the first to lead to an arrest.

Wilutis told the courtroom she wished to compliment the victim for "being brave enough to report" Harrison to authorities. Greer said initially the victim told only her best friend as Harrison "used a cloak of embarrassment … to silence her for years."

Harrison, who was certified as a special education teacher in 2002, was removed from the classroom in November 2021 but continued to be paid, according to district records obtained by Newsday.

Harrison made $148,333 in 2021-22, according to a Newsday database of public salaries. While on home assignment, Harrison received $140,755 during the 2022-23 school year, according to district payroll records.

On Sept. 18, three days after he pleaded guilty, Harrison, who was also alleged to have had sex with an 18-year old student in 2012, resigned from his teaching position, according to a letter obtained by Newsday. 

Grier told the judge at sentencing at Suffolk County Court in Riverhead that Harrison had already "violated the trust" of the community.

"He had the responsibility to make sure the students and athletes that he was in charge of learned and grew as people both in the classroom and on the field," the prosecutor said. "Teachers and coaches are supposed to be role models for children."

Prosecutors previously said Harrison was not criminally charged for the earlier relationship since the student was an adult.

Brittany Rohl, the first woman to publicly come forward in 2021 with allegations against a different former Babylon teacher who had left the district, said Monday the Harrison case has helped spark a larger conversation over teacher conduct.

“Although sentences [like this] may feel disproportionate to perpetrators’ actions, survivors’ persistence to attain any modicum of accountability sends a clear message that we are not broken, the perpetrators are,” she said in a text message Monday.

Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which launched an investigation into the district two years ago, offered no updates Monday other than to say the investigation is ongoing.

Harassment allegations made by former Babylon students surfaced after teacher Jeffrey Kenney was placed on leave in the fall of 2021. He later agreed in a settlement with the district to resign and not seek employment in any school anywhere in the country.

Soon after, multiple women at a board meeting accused a dozen teachers who they said harassed students, leading to the district placing five teachers, including Harrison, on paid leave. Since then, one of those teachers retired in 2022 and the other three have returned to the classrooms, according to records Newsday obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests.

The district in 2021 hired Chris Powers, an attorney with Hauppauge law firm Ingerman Smith LLP, to investigate sexual misconduct allegations leveled by those former students. Powers did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The district said the Powers investigation has concluded but declined to comment further, citing privacy laws.

“Appropriate administrative action was taken as result of the findings of that investigation,” the statement read in part.

Wilutis expressed concern for the allegations against district teachers at Monday's sentencing.

"I don't know what was going on in that Babylon School District but there are a number of cases where teachers are alleged to have violated their trust with students," she said. "Now sir, it's confirmed that you have."  

Harrison's defense attorney, Kevin Keating of Garden City, declined to comment.

Wilutis said she will allow Harrison to share a home with his teenage daughters, despite the sex offender conditions.

"I feel it's very important to keep the family together and not punish the children for the sins of the father," Wilutis said.  

Laura Ahearn, executive director of the Ronkonkoma-based Crime Victims Center and someone who has worked with sexual assault victims going through the criminal justice process, said "3 years of probation is just not enough" in such a case.

“While we can’t second-guess what the victim wanted here, or what evidence exists, this is a chilling message of tolerance, not deterrence," the victim rights advocate said.

“Sometimes that very process itself is re-traumatizing them and making it really difficult for them to move on," Ahearn said. "I could completely understand why a person would opt to not want to go to trial and to be comfortable with a plea deal.” 

With Jim Baumbach and Joie Tyrrell

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