SARANAC LAKE - A village judge has dismissed a criminal charge filed against a former teacher's assistant at Petrova Elementary School who was accused of mistreating a 10-year-old boy.
Judge Ken McLaughlin, in a ruling issued Monday, said there was "insufficient evidence" to support the charge of endangering the welfare of a child that village police filed against Michael Heymann on Jan. 24. The judge's decision came after Heymann's attorney, Thomas Grue, filed a motion to dismiss the case in the interests of justice, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney David Hayes. Hayes said he didn't oppose the dismissal motion.
"We took a look at the evidence, and a great deal of the evidence was an audio recording, and really, what was on the audio recording wasn't discernible," Hayes said Friday. "That was the main reason why I didn't oppose, and that's my understanding of why the judge went along with the decision."
The charge against Heymann, 24, stemmed from a Dec. 19 incident in a "relaxation room" at the school where disruptive students are sometimes taken.
Police Chief Bruce Nason said at the time that a parent had contacted the school and said their child had marks on his neck "that were left by possibly a teacher's assistant."
The boy, who has autism, later told police that Heymann had grabbed him, pulled him and forcefully restrained him in a chair. His parents, in statements to police, said they suspected their son was being abused in early October and hid an audio recording device on their son, sewing it into the waistband of his pants.
Nason said his officers listened to the recording from the Dec. 19 incident. By the time police spoke to the child, however, Nason said there were no marks that were visible and there were no photographs showing any marks or bruising on the boy.
In a statement to police, Heymann said the only contact he had with the child was placing his hands on the boy's shoulders in an attempt to keep him from harming himself.
Hayes said he didn't think there was enough evidence to move forward with the case. He said he consulted with county District Attorney Derek Champagne before making the decision not to oppose the dismissal motion.
"Usually I don't bring misdemeanors to Derek," he said. "He and I sat down. We reviewed the tape and we both felt there really wasn't enough there. We also looked at Mr. Heymann. He's never been in trouble before. He's a college graduate and seems like a decent guy otherwise. We both agreed that a dismissal in the interest of justice was appropriate."
Nason told the Enterprise Friday that he believes police had enough cause, including what his officers heard on the audio recording, to arrest Heymann.
"I still stand behind the arrest as far as the information that was presented at the time," he said. "At the time, we were comfortable enough with the arrest and we made the arrest."
Heymann, who's from Tully, near Syracuse, resigned from his job with the school district on Dec. 31. He had also worked at the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid but resigned that post sometime in December.
A message left for Heymann's attorney late Friday afternoon wasn't immediately returned as of press time.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.