Three female Bayley-Ellard High School classmates admitted to a judge Wednesday that they used spray paint, glitter and glue in November to vandalize a car owned by a former teacher who has accused Principal Frank D. Mattiace of sexually assaulting him.
The juveniles — said by their defense lawyers to be 17-year-old seniors at the private, Catholic high school in Madison –admitted to the crime of witness retaliation. They acknowledged they strove to get the accuser to back off his claims by defacing his 1998 Toyota Corolla with degrading graffiti outside his home in Florham Park.
“She had a grossly misguided sense of loyalty to a person she felt was wrongly charged,” defense lawyer Clifford Weininger told Superior Court Judge Thomas Critchley Jr. of his client, an honor student who drove her two friends to the victim’s home on Nov. 14.
“My emotions took over and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Weininger’s client said, but she agreed that she targeted the victim because he is a witness against Mattiace.
A popular administrator at Bayley-Ellard, Mattiace, 67, of Montville, was arrested on campus on June 11 and initially was charged with molesting a then-17-year-old male student between May 8 and June 5. Mattiace was placed on administrative leave from the school.
A former Bayley-Ellard teacher also contacted police after Mattiace’s arrest, and Mattiace was indicted in October on charges of molesting the student and forcing the adult to submit to sexual acts over 41/2 years.
The three girls, all with their parents present in family court, were sentenced to terms worked out in advance between their lawyers and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office. Two girls were placed on probation for one year, were ordered to perform 25 hours of community service, must participate in the Visitation Impact Program at Morristown Memorial Hospital and must pay their share of the $212 that it cost the victim to clean his car.
“Is it fair to say you wrote some things on the car that weren’t too nice?” defense lawyer James Porfido asked his client, who responded yes. If Porfido’s client successfully completes all conditions of probation and community service, the charge of witness retaliation will be dismissed after one year and she will have no juvenile record.
A second girl, defended by attorney Peter Gilbreth, agreed with his summary that she participated in the vandalism “to send a message” to the victim not to cooperate in the prosecution. This girl, when her probation is completed, can petition the court to have the charge vacated.
Weininger’s client, the girl considered the ringleader, drew a stiffer sentence and no guarantees from the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office that it will not oppose her eventual petition for the charge to be vacated. Besides the same probation, community service, restitution and VIP requirements, she must tour the Morris County jail and continue counseling. The prosecutor’s office also has filed a lawsuit for forfeiture of the car she drove to the victim’s home.
In Mattiace’s pending case, his defense lawyer is expected to argue to a judge on April 20 to dismiss the charges or sever the counts if a trial occurs.