Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teacher Sentenced to Jail in Sex Case

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teacher Sentenced to Jail in Sex Case

Article excerpt

A former Clifton High School teacher charged with sexually assaulting a male student was sentenced to one year in jail and five years of probation Thursday after previously pleading guilty to lesser counts of criminal sexual contact.

Clifton resident Kristin Leone, 28, revealed in court that she, too, had had an inappropriate relationship with someone in a supervisory position when she was younger. Only now that she is in therapy, she said, does she realize the gravity of such a liaison.

"I want to say I am sorry to the victim's family, to my family and my friends," she said, choking back tears.

The lapses in judgment she has shown in her relationships do not define her, she said. "Breaking the rules always made me uncomfortable," she said. "This was completely out of character."

Woodland Park defense attorney Ronald Ricci agreed. "I've been doing this for 17 years," he said. "Good people make terrible mistakes sometimes. And that's what happened here."

He said Leone is a woman who struggled to put herself through college, who went on to become a popular teacher and who always lived a law-abiding life. "Ms. Leone was not a person attracted to juveniles," he said, adding that this isolated incident was a manifestation of other deep-seated problems. "She had very low self- esteem," Ricci said. "She made a tragic, tragic mistake."

Passaic County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Del Russo said it was hard to understand how someone so otherwise responsible and intelligent as Leone could have been so stupid as to risk her career and reputation on such a bad impulse.

"I am very conflicted by what's happening today," he said. "This was someone during Hurricane Katrina that went down there and helped other people," Del Russo said, noting press coverage of her case has humiliated her and her family and that the story has gone international on the Internet.

"Some people say, 'It's kind of different for boys,' " he continued. "Well, it's not kind of different for boys. Because 'boys' is the operative word."

The victim's mother, who is not being identified to protect a sex abuse victim's anonymity, said some [other students] give her son "the high five," others ridicule him. …

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