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Teacher accused of sexual encounter with student pleads not guilty

A Shoreham-Wading River High School teacher who allegedly had at least two sexual encounters with a 15-year-old student pleaded not guilty at her arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip Tuesday morning.

Veronica Pezdan, 28, of Holbrook was released on her own recognizance and will be subject to GPS monitoring following the arraignment before Judge James Saladino. Suffolk County police arrested the mathematics teacher Monday and charged her with two counts of third-degree rape and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

“What we know right now is there is the word of a student against the word of a teacher,” said attorney John LoTurco of Huntington, who is representing Ms. Pezdan.

Speaking outside the courtroom to reporters, Mr. LoTurco said no corroborating scientific evidence such as DNA has yet to be introduced to link his client to the crime.

“At this point, our client made no statements to the police department so there’s no admissions, no confession,” he said. “They have the word of the complainant only as far as I know.”

Assistant district attorney Ashley Moruzzi appeared virtually in the courtroom, and briefly described the two sexual encounters Ms. Pezdan allegedly engaged in with her student. Ms. Pezdan’s parents were at the court, but did not go into the courtroom for the arraignment. Ms. Pezdan is due back in court April 23.

Mr. LoTurco said he has only briefly met Ms. Pezdan prior to the arraignment but maintained she asserts her innocence.

“We will investigate these charges thoroughly and we will scrutinize the allegations completely,” he said. “We will vigorously defend our client from these allegations.”

In a statement Monday, SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole said the teacher will no longer be employed by the district, “effective immediately.”

“The Administration and Board of Education are deeply concerned about these allegations,” Mr. Poole said. “Please be assured that the District does not tolerate and condemns such behaviors. The District is fully cooperating with authorities.”

Ms. Pezdan began at SWR in 2018 after having graduated St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue in 2017. She was a graduate of Sachem North High School.

Veronica Pezdan leaves First District Court in Central Islip Tuesday afternoon following an arraignment. (Credit: Grant Parpan)