It took little more than an hour for a jury to find a pair of married teachers guilty of sexual abuse after the two were accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student for more than two years.
Nicodemo Baggetta, 30, and his wife Ruth Ann Baggetta, 37, were convicted Wednesday on charges of institutional sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, corruption of minors, and furnishing alcohol to minors. Prosecutors successfully argued that Nicodemo engaged in sexual activities with a 16-year-old student while Ruth encouraged them. The couple had claimed throughout the trial that the relationship was not, in fact, of a sexual nature and that they had been trying to help the child through some mental health issues.
Despite their denials of the sexual nature of the relationship, Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Sara Varela saw the couple's testimony as essentially bolstering the statement made by the victim in court on June 17.
"I believe the fact that both defendants took the stand and essentially corroborated everything that our victim had to say gave her even more credence to the jury," said Varela, according to WNEP of Moosic, Pennsylvania.
Although text messages sent between the three were not sexually explicit, prosecutors used them as evidence to show how the relationship had developed. The group often communicated over 80 times in a day.
Varela described the conversations as "clearly inappropriate."
"Where there's smoke there's fire. What they did was inappropriate at all levels. They just didn't admit to the sexual misconduct, but the jury saw through that," Varela continued.
The Baggettas' relationship with the student, who is now 19 years old and remains unnamed in reports, was believed to have begun when she was just 16. Nicodemo is believed to have had inappropriate contact with the victim more than 20 times, according to ABC 27 of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Paul Walker, the defense attorney representing the Baggettas, was not pleased with the results of the trial
"I always respect jurors and their decision, but we were upset with the verdict," said Walker, according to Fox 56 of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Nicodemo Baggetta was employed as an instructor at Fell Charter School in Simpson, Pennsylvania. Ruth Baggetta had previously worked as a band teacher and is suspended without pay from her job at Lakeland High School in Scott Township, Pennsylvania. Sentencing will occur within the next few months. They each face several years in prison.
The Baggettas plan on appealing the decision.
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