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DA: School officials knew about ’70s sex abuse claims

June 21, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

MALONE - Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne says Tupper Lake Central School officials were aware of allegations that Michael Scaringe had sexually abused at least one female student when he was a teacher in the district in the 1970s and went by a different name.

Scaringe, 63, was convicted Wednesday of raping a 13-year-old girl at his home on Old Lake Colby Road in Saranac Lake on Dec. 23, 2009. He had been living in Florida until returning to the area in September 2009 to take the job of director of the Saranac Lake Youth Center, where he met the girl.

Not long after his arrest in January 2010, prosecutors said Scaringe, who then went by the name Michael Josephson and grew up in Saranac Lake, had left the Tupper Lake area in the 1970s under "suspicious circumstances." As it worked to build a case against Scaringe, the Franklin County District Attorney's Office obtained statements from several Tupper Lake women who came forward to report that they had sexual relations with Scaringe when they were students and he was a music teacher in Tupper Lake schools.

Four of those women took the stand late last week and earlier this week in Scaringe's trial. They described relationships with Scaringe that allegedly began with him inviting each of the young girls to his classroom after school, where he sweet talked them and told them how pretty they were. It later progressed to touching, groping, oral sex and, in some cases, sexual intercourse, according to the women.

The incidents allegedly happened in a variety of locations, including Scaringe's classroom, a school bus, the home where he lived with his parents, a car, a motel room and on a ski lift at Big Tupper Ski Area.

Several of the alleged victims said they liked the attention Scaringe gave them, felt they were in love with him and agreed to have sex with him, even though they were too young to legally consent to sex. The women said they never told their parents what happened, even when they grew suspicious.

At the end of the 1975 school year, the Tupper Lake school board declined to renew Scaringe's contract, despite the protests of Scaringe and his parents, who showed up at a school board meeting to push for his rehiring. School officials said they weren't happy with his job performance, according to a June 1975 Enterprise report.

Tom McCarthy, who was high school principal at the time, told the Enterprise in January 2010 that school officials had concerns about Scaringe's interaction with some students but never had anything that would "hold up." McCarthy remembered receiving one complaint from a parent about Scaringe's "behavior" with their child.

"We talked to him about it, he denied it, and it didn't go any further than that," McCarthy said, adding that he didn't recall the specifics of any allegations against Scaringe. "By the end of that year, we chose not to rehire him."

At one point, however, Champagne said one of the women told school officials what was going on. He said his office looked into it and confirmed that one of the alleged victims had reported the alleged sexual abuse she experienced.

"We confirmed with a school board member that they were advised of this and that was the reason why Mr. Scaringe's contract was not renewed," he said. "Why wasn't it reported to law enforcement? If it was, why wasn't anything done? How was this person, who clearly inflicted a lot of damage in our community, essentially just allowed to leave town?

"If today this type of information came forward, we would have convened a grand jury investigation. That's what's most disheartening and most troubling about this prosecution is how many other victims are out there beside the five that came forward, and how was this not stopped 30 years ago? What kind of trail of devastation has he left between here and Florida in the last 30 years?"

Scaringe was arrested in 1995 on charges of molesting a 14-year-old girl at a St. Petersburg, Fla. middle school where he was working as a substitute band teacher. He was ultimately acquitted of those charges at trial.

Champagne acknowledged there's nothing he can do about the alleged crimes Scaringe committed in Tupper Lake now, as the statutes of limitations have long since expired.

"There's no way for me to right the wrong that's been done to them," he said. "It's just been a complex and upsetting component to this whole case."



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