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School janitor headed to trial

| Saturday, July 19, 2003

MONESSEN - A Monessen School District janitor accused of using students to steal computers from the middle school is headed to Westmoreland County Court.

William Jackson, 54, of 462 Parkway St., Monessen, went into a preliminary hearing Friday after rejecting several plea bargain offers, according to his lawyer, Jeremy R. Boby.

One of the offers would have resulted in acceptance to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, through which he could have petitioned to have his record expunged after a term of probation.

ARD is a program for first-time, nonviolent offenders.

During the hearing, Boby sought to have the charges dismissed, claiming the prosecution did not make a strong enough case.

Monessen police have charged Jackson with criminal conspiracy, corruption of minors and theft in connection with two laptop computers that turned up missing in April.

District Justice Joseph Dalfonso, of Monessen, did not agree and bound Jackson over on all charges.

Boby said Jackson maintains his innocence and will seek trial as a venue to prove it.

Police claim Jackson and a high school student discussed taking the equipment and splitting the money after selling it.

With a lawyer present, the student, 16-year-old Garan Fennell, testified yesterday, saying Jackson approached him about some "work" he wanted the teen-ager to do.

"I asked him was there any way I could get caught or anything and he said, 'no,'" Fennell said.

Police claim that on April 14 and 23 Jackson left Fennell the keys to get into the middle school classroom where the equipment was located.

Fennell said he took the computers, one at a time.

Two other high school students were involved, keeping watch and holding the equipment, Fennell added. Neither of the other teen-agers testified, though.

Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney James Hopson said each of the boys face charges in juvenile court.

The computers were used by sixth-grade teacher Jason Minniti, who testified that he had taught the boys years ago. He said he did not recall any of them having discipline problems.

Monessen Superintendent Dr. Alex Warren would not comment on whether the district was taking disciplinary action against the students.

Jackson, who was working in the middle and high schools when the charges were filed, has been suspended without pay.

He remains free on recognizance bond.

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