A Riverhead teenager who attempted to initiate an inappropriate relationship with a 7-year-old girl while working as a custodian at an elementary school pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Saturday.
Judge Eric Sachs set bail at $7,500 cash or $15,000 bond, citing the ages of the victim and defendant, at First District Court in Central Islip. Jonathan Sovinsky, 18, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child.
Tensions escalated inside the courtroom when the father of the victim, seated in the first row available for the audience, stood up at the end of the arraignment and shouted toward Mr. Sovinsky.
“This is the beginning, pedophile,” he said.
He was asked to leave the courtroom and then said “I got no problem doing that, pedophile.”
He looked over to family members of the defendant and called them “pedophile family.”
“It ain’t done,” he said, while adding expletives.
As soon as Mr. Sovinsky was brought into the courtroom, the father leaned over the bench in front of him and peered toward the teenager. More than a half-dozen court officers were in close proximity to the defendant during the arraignment and another officer stood at the entryway where the attorneys are seated. Outside the courthouse afterward, two court officers were in the parking lot in case anything escalated. The victim and defendant’s family did not appear to cross paths while leaving the courthouse.
Because the charge is a misdemeanor and Mr. Sovinsky is under 19, he could be granted youthful offender status by the judge if he’s found guilty. Suffolk County police declined to release his name at the time of the arrest Friday. Mr. Sovinsky turns 19 in December and his name was used in open court Saturday.
Judge Sachs issued an order of protection to bar Mr. Sovinsky from making contact with the victim or the victim’s family.
“Don’t breathe in their direction,” the judge said to him.
The prosecutor said Mr. Sovinsky attempted to initiate a relationship with the girl by providing two sticky notes. One note said he was a secret admirer and sought her contact info. The second sticky note listed his contact information.
The prosecutor said Mr. Sovinsky admitted to wanting to get the girl’s contact information and passing along his contact info. He allegedly advised the girl to keep the communication a secret.
The prosecutor had requested $10,000 bail due to the “very serious nature of the case.”
Mr. Sovinsky does not have any prior arrests, the attorney representing him, Paul Barahal of Smithtown, said in court. A mental health screening was also requested and granted.
“The only allegation I see against him is that he gave her his phone number,” Mr. Barahal said outside the courtroom as Mr. Sovinsky’s mother left in tears.
The victim is a student at John S. Hobart Elementary School in Shirley, which is part of the William Floyd School District. In a statement Friday, the district said the custodian was employed through the Department of Labor Youth Employment Program.
The prosecutor declined to comment after the arraignment, deferring to a DA spokesperson. The DA spokesperson, Sheila Kelly, did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Mr. Sovinsky is due back in court Monday.