Teacher’s assistant sentenced in student sex case

Prosecutor: Woman expressed remorse for her actions at sentencing
Alexandra Culhane.
Alexandra Culhane.

SCHENECTADY — A former teacher’s assistant at Northeast Parent and Child Society has been sentenced to probation for sexual contact she had with a 15-year-old student, a prosecutor said.

Alexandra Culhane, 24, appeared in court last week after her earlier guilty plea to one count of third-degree criminal sexual act, a felony.

Judge Kathleen Hogan imposed the sentence of 10 years’ probation. Culhane was also designated a Level 1 sex offender, prosecutor John Carson said.

“The family as a whole is happy to put this chapter behind them to be able to move on with a final and firm resolution,” Carson said Wednesday.

The resolution makes Culhane a convicted felon and ensures she will be intensely supervised, Carson said.

“It doesn’t change the emotional pain that was visited upon the child victim in this matter,” Carson said. “What was supposed to be a safe place of learning was taken away from him, and he was sexualized by a person he was supposed to trust. Balancing all of that, they’re glad it’s over, and they think that she received a significant sentence.”

Culhane admitted to having sexual contact with the teen in April 2016 in Central Park, Carson has said. She was arrested in June 2017.

Prosecutors believed Culhane befriended the teen through her work at the alternative high school. That escalated to an inappropriate friendship and then to a sexual relationship, Carson said.

She communicated with the boy via text messages and social media, Carson said. They would then pick a location to meet, or she would pick him up either at his house or down the street from his home, according to Carson.

The plea agreement, Carson said, spared the teen from having to testify at a trial. 

Hogan could have sentenced Culhane to up to six months in jail. She noted that Culhane expressed remorse, both when entering her plea and at her sentencing, according to Carson.

At sentencing, Carson recalled Culhane gave a tearful apology to the victim, the victim’s family and the court. She also said she understood the gravity of what she had done and that she would have to live with it for the rest of her life.

Culhane’s attorney, Joe Litz, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The investigation began after the school became aware of rumors about the inappropriate relationship and notified law enforcement, Carson said.

The Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs initially investigated, then turned the case over to the Schenectady Police Department for further investigation, Carson said.

In a statement issued in June — after Culhane’s arrest and the unrelated arrest of a teacher on an attempted physical assault charge — Northern Rivers CEO William T. Gettman said allegations of such behavior result in the immediate removal of the employee from duty, as well as an investigation and notification of the appropriate authorities.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of the children in our care,” the June statement read. “The actions referenced in these incidents in no way reflect the values or practices of our organization. This is not who we are.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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