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Ex-Franklin Regional teacher denies he sent texts to teen

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Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011

Records indicate that 64 text messages were sent from Terrence Flaherty's phone to a youth's cell phone between Nov. 11 and 14.

A former Franklin Regional High School teacher charged with sending sexually explicit text messages to a male student in November denied Tuesday that he sent the messages.

"No, of course not," Terrence Flaherty said outside a Murrysville courtroom. "No, no, absolutely not."

Flaherty, 58, of 123 Pheasant Drive, Penn Hills, is charged with criminal use of a communication facility, criminal attempt, corruption of minors, harassment and two counts of criminal solicitation and unlawful contact with a minor. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday before District Judge Charles Conway.

Outside Conway's courtroom, Flaherty's attorney, Duke George, said his client did not send the messages.

"We know who did. It was not my client," George said. "There was someone else in the house.

"The text messages came from one phone to another. The commonwealth is going to have difficulty proving who sent the text messages. The boy acknowledges that someone else may have sent the text messages."

According to Murrysville police, officers were informed Nov. 13 that a student younger than 18 had received a text message from a teacher requesting nude pictures of him. In another message, the teacher allegedly apologized and claimed he was intoxicated when he sent the previous message.

The student eventually said Flaherty had sent him the messages, according to the criminal complaint. Other messages allegedly asked the boy and others to join him in an orgy, and another requested a picture of the boy's genitals as payment for a $100 loan.

Records indicate that 64 text messages were sent from Flaherty's phone to the youth's cell phone between Nov. 11 and 14, the criminal complaint said.

Yesterday, George said a number of students had Flaherty's cell phone number because he was involved with the district's anti-bullying program.

"My client and this young boy have known each other for three years. There have been hundreds of text messages, phone calls. Any time this boy had problems at home, any time this boy had any problems at school, he would go to Mr. Flaherty, and Mr. Flaherty would help him out during these trying times," George said. "The only time that there was any window of anything sexual was this night."

George said he needs more time to investigate before going to court.

"We need some additional discovery in preparation for the defense of this case. That discovery wasn't available today," George said. "There's additional information that we need to review those text messages with the other evidence the commonwealth is going to present at the trial."

Attorney Joseph Paletta, who is representing the victim's family, came to court yesterday to observe.

"The family has decided nothing in particular," Paletta said. "They're leaving all their options open. ... They have not decided what to do, if anything."

Conway changed one condition of Flaherty's release. He is permitted contact with Franklin Regional employees. He still is not permitted contact with minors and school district students and administrators, except for official meetings. He must continue treatment at Greenbriar Treatment Center, undergo a mental health evaluation and follow recommendations.

A social studies teacher at Franklin Regional for about 30 years, Flaherty retired from his position, effective Jan. 20.

He faces formal arraignment March 23 before a Westmoreland County judge.

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