The plea was entered early Tuesday morning at the Saratoga County Courthouse in Ballston Spa by Christopher Culver, the 33-year-old Clifton Park elementary school teacher accused of multiple sexual crimes against eight boys under age 11.
Culver, a suspended kindergarten and first-grade teacher at Okte Elementary School in the Shenendehowa School District, was charged in February with six counts of sexual contact with children. Saratoga County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Jensen said however, since that time additional victims have emerged, and more allegations are being pursued.
Culver will now stand trial on a total of 49 counts, including 29 counts of sexual abuse in the first-degree; 12 counts of sexual conduct against a child second-degree; and eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The eight counts are misdemeanors carrying little jail time, but the 29 counts of sexual abuse in the first-degree come with maximum penalties of seven years each. State laws, however, place a cap on the cumulative time Culver could serve, if convicted, at just 20 years in total.
Dressed in a wrinkled olive-colored suit, wearing wire-framed glasses and carrying a purple plastic binder, Culver was in the courtroom early, but left briefly when told his defense attorney, Terence Kindlon of Albany, had been delayed.
Meanwhile, in the second row of wooden benches in Judge Jerry Scarano’s court, nine parents sat watching silently, some of them holding hands. The parents, with faces still tanned from the holiday weekend, all appeared to be in their early to mid-30’s. Each of the parents left the courtroom Tuesday with a photocopy of the order of protection granted by Judge Scarano barring Culver from any contact with their sons.
Culver’s residence has changed from Colina Lane, where he lived with his wife, to Chestertown, Warren County, where he now resides with his father, Robert Culver. Scarano ordered Culver not to change his address again without the court’s permission.
After being read his rights, Culver entered his plea in a firm voice.
Jensen asked that Culver’s bail be ratcheted up to $100,000 from the original $50,000 posted by Culver’s father on Feb. 13.
In light of the nature of the charges, the fact that he is no longer employed, and I believe the Department of Education has filed charges to remove his license, I request bail be increased, said Jensen. `I have no idea what he does with his time or might do; I feel there’s a risk of flight.`
`Culver has been routinely present in the courtroom; he was here bright and early and ready to go,` argued Kindlon. `Chestertown is a short distance from here, and his father is with him for every appearance. He is quite eager to deal with the charges.`
Robert Culver, who bears a striking resemblance to his son’s appearance and demeanor, signed an agreement guaranteeing Christopher will show up for future court appearances.
Jensen requested Scarano set a date for the trial to commence, a request Scarano denied.
`There will likely be a lengthy discovery process, and it’s too early to set a date, but I do intend to get through this case as expeditiously as we can,` said Scarano.
Jensen, along with victim advocates from the county DA’s office, met quietly with the mothers and fathers of the alleged victims following the courtroom proceedings.
`I knew it was a long shot to request the higher bail, but I had to try,` said Jensen.
Attorneys now have 30 days to make discovery demands and 45 days for pre-trial motions. No dates have been set for Culver’s next appearance in court.“