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Judge drops felony sex abuse charge against Hempstead teacher

A judge Thursday dropped a felony sex abuse charge against a Hempstead public school teacher following his January arrest after accusations that he had "sexual contact" with one girl and also endangered two others during an after-school program.

Two misdemeanor child endangerment charges remain standing against art teacher John Finnegan Jr., 51, as the case moves forward, according to court officials.

But Judge Anthony Paradiso released the Island Park man on his own recognizance after a Thursday morning appearance in a Mineola court, after also dismissing another misdemeanor child endangerment charge.

Previously, the Jackson Annex School elementary teacher had been free on $50,000 bail following his not guilty plea.

The judge's dismissal of the two charges happened after a request from the Nassau district attorney's office that he do so, according to court officials.

District attorney's office spokesman Brendan Brosh said in a statement Thursday after an inquiry about the case that "the charges were modified due to a legal impediment."

Finnegan's attorney, Dana Grossblatt, said in an interview that the charge dismissals came after the accounts of all three of Finnegan's accusers changed.

"I've expressed since the beginning that these allegations never happened. Based upon the various contradictory statements by all the complainants, I've been proven correct," the Jericho lawyer said Thursday. "I believe, as I stated right from the get-go, that Mr. Finnegan will ultimately be vindicated with a dismissal."

The dropped charges related to accusations from a 10-year-old student, Grossblatt said.

The defense attorney said her client's case had been heading toward a grand jury presentation, where prosecutors would have sought an indictment against Finnegan.

But Grossblatt said prosecutors interviewed the three students and decided not to present the case to the grand jury, before then providing the defense with a two-page letter that contained evidence favorable to the defense based on the interviews.

Hempstead school district spokeswoman Nicole Epstein said Thursday that school officials wouldn't comment on a case in the middle of a legal proceeding.

Hempstead schools acting Superintendent Regina Armstrong previously has said the allegations first came to light on Jan. 4, when a student reported alleged misconduct by the teacher. She said the school did an internal inquiry and then called police.

Finnegan, who is on a paid leave of absence, has worked for the district for decades, according to the school administrator.

Finnegan's attorney said he has an unblemished record and has never been arrested in the past.

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