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Student: Contact was consensual

| Friday, June 9, 2006

An East Allegheny High School student testified Thursday that she and Jarold A. "Jerry" Winkleblech, the district's band director, had frequent contact -- kissing and hugging -- while at school, and that the contact was consensual.

After the nearly hourlong hearing, Winkleblech, 33, of Versailles, was held for trial on charges of indecent assault, child endangerment, corruption of a minor, unlawful contact with a minor, criminal trespass and criminal use of a communication device.

Yesterday's hearing was before North Versailles District Judge Robert Barner. Winkleblech's formal arraignment is Aug. 23.

The student, who is 16 years old and has just completed her sophomore year, testified that she met Winkleblech, whom she called "Wink," when she was in eighth grade. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review does not publish the names of victims of alleged indecent assault.

She said in February 2005, when she was in ninth grade, she began text messaging Winkleblech's cell phone, and he responded. At the beginning, the messages consisted of "Hi" and "How are you?" the girl testified.

She said that by April 2005 she messaged Winkleblech, a music teacher, that she loved him, and he responded in kind.

She testified that she got passes out of classes such as geometry to go the to band room to meet Winkleblech. In December 2005, the contact became physical with hugging, kissing and "caressing each other's backs," she said.

Winkleblech earlier this year gave the girl gifts, including his wedding band, high school ring, a gold chain, a heart pendant, a stuffed animal and a glass angel, she testified.

Under cross-examination by Joseph Yablonski, Winkleblech's lawyer, the girl said she and the band director did not have sexual relations. She testified that her contact with Winkleblech was consensual.

Superintendent Roger D'Emidio testified that when he confronted Winkleblech last month with e-mail and text messages between the band director and the girl, as well as excerpts from the girl's diary, Winkleblech said he "got into something he lost control of."

Winkleblech, who remains suspended with pay, had no comment after the hearing. Winkleblech's base pay in the 2004-05 school year was $39,286, according to state Department of Education records.

Yablonski said Winkleblech made "errors in judgment" and was in a "compromised emotional and psychological state" during his relationship with the student.

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