PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A judge has accepted a plea deal for a former teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student.
Joseph Ruggieri, 41, will spend two to five years in prison and five years on probation.
As part of the plea agreement, Ruggieri must participate in a sex offender program register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and surrender his teaching certificate. Judge David Cashman had harsh words for the former teacher before accepting the plea agreement, which he called inappropriate and too lenient.
Now: Judge accepts plea deal in Joseph Ruggieri case. Sentenced to 2-5 years in prison for institutional sexual assault, 5yrs probation#KDKA
— Lisa Washington (@LisaWashing) April 18, 2016
In court Monday afternoon, Ruggieri said he was deeply apologetic for what he’d done. He was accused of having sex with one of his students, at his home, on more than one occasion. She was 17 at the time. His attorney, R. Anthony DeLuca said Ruggieri accepted his responsibility and understood that he deserved to be punished.
“My client has accepted a significant jail sentence so he has accepted responsibility,” said DeLuca outside the courtroom. “I have met with him countless times. He is humbled by the situation. He does fully understand what has happened here and has taken full responsibility.”
Ruggieri pleaded guilty to institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors and witness intimidation. His bond was revoked last year after investigators charged him with using a school laptop to email messages to the victim, while he was awaiting trial. Previously, Ruggieri’s lawyer said the emails from his client to the victim are about love, not intimidation.
DeLuca described Ruggieri as a “fantastic father,” but Judge Cashman disagreed. He told Ruggieri, “If you were a fantastic father, you wouldn’t be having sex with a minor.”
“He is a very intelligent person who I think ultimately will do a lot of good in society when he’s ultimately released from prison,” said DeLuca
The victim’s mother read a statement in court, saying she initially blamed herself for not protecting her daughter from Ruggieri.
“My daughter put her trust in Mr. Ruggieri and he violated that trust… He stole her innocence,” she said.
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