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JUNE 16 - JUNE 24, 2015

Newfane Teacher Anello Cleared; Real Justice Remains Elusive in Case

By Mike Hudson

JUNE 16, 2015

Falsely accused: Mug shots of Sal Anello on maybe the worst day of his life.
Smiling, Anello is exonerated.
The artist's self-portrait suggests he is deep in thought. Perhaps Sal should ruminate on how to stop the terrible practice of allowing false accusers in sex offence matters who can hide behind the wall of anonymity from destroying the lives of innocent people with their lies. Maybe the accused's name should also be anonymous unless and until they are found guilty.

If you’re a man, it’s like your worst nightmare just came true. Someone’s made an accusation. You’ve acted inappropriately, touched inappropriately, said something inappropriate. And in today’s sexually charged universe, such an accusation can be a career ender or worse.

Ask Sal Anello, the Newfane High School art teacher who was suspended from work on January 20 after being accused of “forcible touching,” rather a catchall statue that could be used to criminalize all manner of human contact.

A conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail, and the 42-year-old Anello has been free on a $1,000 bond since his arrest by Niagara County Sheriff’s deputies. Last week, all charges against him were dropped.

The alleged victim in the case was a Newfane High School student, though virtually no details were released in the case either by the school district or the Sheriff’s Dept. Anello fiercely defended his innocence of any wrongdoing.

A sex crime in the state on New York, “forcible touching” may also involve being sentenced to register as a sex offender. There is currently no registry for those who bring false accusations against another.

"A person is guilty of forcible touching when such person intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touches the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person; or for the purpose of gratifying the actor's sexual desire. For the purposes of this section, forcible touching includes squeezing, grabbing or pinching," the statute reads.

While it is impossible to impugn the lawmakers’ intentions in writing the statute, it is obvious that it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. People packed like sardines into narrow subway cars on the morning commute in Manhattan, for example, have no choice but to touch each other in all sorts of ways. The words “intentionally” and “for the purpose of” are where the authors of the law get away with murder here, for, in cases like these, with no witnesses, no forensics and just your basic he said she said setup, who can say what was intentional and for what purpose the incident occurred?

It’s enough to make you wonder who the real victim is in these sorts of cases. The damage to Anello here is palpable. Five months of missed work, astronomical attorney fees and a public shaming he’ll not likely shake for the rest of his life are only the beginning.

He’s said he expects to get his job back, but will he? The student, who has never been identified or even officially confirmed as a student is free to go on with life, unshackled by any unpleasantness the charges have brought.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the facts of the case said that only a complete recanting by the student/victim or a discovery by investigators that whatever was alleged to have happened couldn’t have possibly happened would have been enough to get the highly publicized charges dropped.

If, as it appears, the accusation was false, the accuser will still not be identified, and will be free to accuse again in the future, without having to worry about the Anello case coming up. No database is kept on such things.

“Thanks for all your support and thanks to all of you who were brave and comfortable enough to reach out and check in on me,” Anello wrote of his Facebook page after the charges were dismissed. “Thank you to Lou Perez from Destiny church whose sermons connected me with God in a way I never understood before and gave me the strength to walk tall and rebuild a shattered man. Thank you to my family for their undying love. And thank you most of all to my sweetheart Gina (Gigliotti), who endured the pain of this whole experience with me every step of the way to help me hold my head up high.”





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