A 17-year-old accused of committing a felony sex act against another male teen at the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch was released on $2,500 bail after pleading not guilty at his arraignment in Riverhead Town court Monday.
The teen’s lawyer, Brian Francese from Legal Aid, strongly disputed the charges, saying his client was innocent and that the authorities’ case wasn’t as strong as they initially stated.
Seth Wassenaar — who has been living at the ranch for three weeks — was charged with felony criminal sex act and endangering the welfare of a child after an incident Sunday, according to Riverhead police.
Court papers allege that Mr. Wassenaar pushed his 16-year-old victim into a bathroom at the Arnold House at the ranch and sodomized him about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Police said they received a call from the ranch about 9:20 p.m. Sunday and went to Peconic Bay Medical Center to investigate further.
The investigation led police to Mr. Wassenaar who was arrested and held overnight for arraignment before Judge Allen Smith.
At his arraignment, Mr. Wassenaar told the judge he had previously lived in Texas, but was sent to the ranch due to issues in school and was told he couldn’t return to his family’s house unless he completed the program.
He also said he was a recent transfer to the Riverhead High School, though superintendent Nancy Carney later told the newspaper he is not a student in the district.
Mr. Wassenaar has never been arrested before, his attorney said. Mr. Francese suggested the teen be released into the custody of a Timothy Hill employee, but Judge Smith rejected the idea that an employee could keep the teen apart from his alleged victim.
“That noise you hear in the background is my bulls— detector going off,” Judge Smith told Mr. Wassenaar’s attorney before rejected the request.
The Timothy Hill employee — who declined to give his name to a reporter — told the judge the ranch was “changing lives.”
The judge, who issued an order of protection for the victim, set bail at $2,500. By 4:30 p.m. Monday, bail had been posted and Mr. Wassenaar was released.
The Timothy Hill employee at the arraignment declined to comment, and referred questions to the Timothy Hill ranch office. Executive director Thaddaeus Hill declined to comment on the incident Tuesday morning.