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Three Village teacher accused of bar rape

A Three Village schoolteacher with a criminal record was arrested Wednesday and charged with the brutal beating and rape of a Mount Sinai bartender earlier this month, police said.

Michael J. Wachholder, 30, a physical education teacher at an East Setauket elementary school who has worked for the district for the past five years, was charged with first-degree rape, second-degree aggravated sexual abuse and second-degree assault.

Wachholder was arrested Wednesday morning by Sixth Squad detectives while on his way to work at Arrowhead School from his home in Rocky Point, police said. He was to be arraigned today in First District Court, Central Islip.

Det. Lt. Glen McVeigh, the commanding officer of the Sixth Squad detectives, said Wachholder raped and beat a female bartender Feb. 3 at the tavern in Mount Sinai.

"She seems to be on the way to recovery," McVeigh said. "She was beaten up badly. Her jaw is wired shut."

In the earliest report of the attack, police said two men entered the bar about 3:30 p.m., and after ordering drinks and engaging the bartender in conversation, struck her from behind on the head and face, knocked her to the floor and sexually assaulted her.

"It was a vicious, violent attack," McVeigh said. "He kept banging her head into the floor."

Police have located the second man in the bar at that time -- an acquaintance of Wachholder -- but he did not participate in the attack, McVeigh said. Although he did not initially come forward, he has been cooperating with police and won't be charged, he said.

In a prepared statement, Ralph P. Ferrie, Three Village school district superintendent, said: "The teacher has been placed on indefinite leave from his position pending the outcome of the legal process. In compliance with New York State law, a background check was conducted prior to hiring this individual, and the state reported no prior criminal record."

A Newsday check of Wachholder's criminal background Wednesday indicated a number of arrests since the 1990s, including a felony criminal mischief arrest in 2000. But that charge, and other arrests for misdemeanors, ultimately resulted in either dismissals or guilty pleas to lesser offenses, including a misdemeanor conviction for operating a vehicle while impaired and several violations.

Michael Conte, a spokesman for the school district, said Wednesday, "The state had reported no prior criminal conviction when the district checked his record pursuant to state law. We plan to look into this tomorrow to ascertain why these prior convictions were not reported to the district."

McVeigh said after police asked the public for information about the attack and put out a sketch of the suspect, several tips came in from people who said they recognized Wachholder.

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