A former Shoreham-Wading River math teacher who pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree rape in December will avoid additional jail time as part of a plea agreement.
Veronica Pezdan, who admitted to having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student, was sentenced to 10 years’ probation Monday before Suffolk County Judge Steven Pilewski in Riverhead.
With her attorney be her side, Ms. Pezdan apologized to the victim’s family, her own family and expressed “deep regret” for her actions. Members of the victim’s family, including the boys mother and grandmother, were present in the courtroom. Ms. Pezdan also credited her “life-saving” therapist who was present in the courtroom. While the victim’s family did not speak during the court proceeding, the assistant district attorney read a statement from the mother that said how the boy was forced to change schools after fellow students found out what had happened and said that “no amount of sentencing can erase the damage done.”
In the statement, Melissa Grier, the ADA, said the victim’s family is trying to move on and grow together.
Ms. Pezdan had several members of her own family in the courtroom, including her fiancé. Her attorney, John LoTurco of Huntington, said Ms. Pezdan has shown significant remorse for her actions and has been “very apologetic to the victim’s family.” Ms. Pezdan told the judge she has started to pursue a new career.
As part of the sentencing, Ms. Pezdan will have to register as a sex offender, be subject to computer monitoring, pay a surcharge of $1,425 within a year and the court issued a permanent order of protection. She is also prohibited from acquiring any firearms.
Still to be determined is whether Ms. Pezdan will have to register as a Level 2 or Level 1 sex offender. Level 1 is considered a low risk of repeat offense while Level 2 is considered moderate risk. A key difference is that Level 2 sex offenders are required to be registered for life, whereas for Level 1 the duration is 20 years. Ms. Pezdan was 28 at the time of the sexual encounter, which occurred in March and April of 2021.
Ms. Grier said Ms. Pezdan scored an 85 on an assessment done to determine the sex offender level under the Sex Offender Registration Act, which equates to Level 2. Mr. LoTurco argued for a “downward departure,” saying his client was at low risk for committing a similar crime, citing how she can never teach again and will not be around children. He also said Ms. Pezdan has a strong support system at home living with her fiance’ and her parents. He said Ms. Pezdan is in an “age-appropriate relationship with her fiancé” and has shown a “deep commitment to counseling.”
He quoted a report from a psychologist the defense team hired that stated Ms. Pezdan is at “low risk to reoffend in the future.”
Ms. Grier countered that the assessment already takes into account the points Mr. LoTurco raised. She also noted the family stability was already in place at the time of the crime. She said Ms. Pezdan had been with her boyfriend, now fiancé, for six years prior to when the crime took place.
She also said that Ms. Pezdan sought out the inappropriate relationship and said the victim was “confused” and “didn’t know how to feel.”
Judge Pilewski, who recently took over the case from Judge Chris Anne Kelley, did not issue a decision on the sex offender status and adjourned the case for two months.
Ms. Pezdan pleaded guilty to two felony counts of third-degree rape on Dec. 8.
She was arrested by Suffolk County Police Department Seventh Precinct detectives shortly before noon April 19, 2021, on William Floyd Parkway in Shoreham after she received a letter from the district informing her that her employment was being terminated, according to a police statement attached to the grand jury indictment.
In a statement the afternoon of her arrest, SWR superintendent Gerard Poole said the teacher will no longer be employed by the district, “effective immediately.”
The termination followed a tip from a staff member about an inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student, which first triggered an internal investigation, Mr. Poole had said.
Ms. Pezdan began at SWR in 2018 after having graduated St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue in 2017. She is a graduate of Sachem North High School.