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Judge Says Tapes of Cheektowaga Teachers Can Be Heard

5:10 PM, Oct 11, 2013   |    comments
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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - The story starts with Dontre Jones, who is behind bars and has been convicted of shooting and killing Ira Watkins at the Cheektowaga Town Park in May of 2011.

Authorities say that three Cheektowaga High teachers, currently on paid leave had inappropriate phone conversations with Jones, while he was awaiting trial in the Erie County Holding Center.

For months, the attorneys for one of the teachers have been fighting to get all materials related to the case sealed, including the recorded phone calls, because there was nothing criminal about the conversations.

But, a state Supreme Court judge in Erie County has ruled that the tapes can be released, opening the door for the public to hear the conversations the teachers had with Jones.

Carl Morgan, the attorney for one of the teachers, declined to comment on camera to 2 On Your Side, but says in a statement: "we still think our position has merit and we are considering an appeal."

Morgan says in the judge's ruling, the materials can be released because there's no evidence that the teachers were under investigation.

Cheektowaga police say Jones, who was a student of the teachers, called them during the school day and that the teachers directly interfered with the investigation against Jones.

Police chief David Zack has made comments saying, the conversations were "disgusting" and "mind-blowing," and wants the tapes released.

"Parents have a right to know what is taking place in the school and in the classroom," Zack said.

Erie County district attorney Frank Sedita agrees and spoke to 2 On Your Side in late August and said:

"When we turn over our kids to teachers for five or six or seven hours a day, they're acting in loco parentis, they're acting in substitution of the parent and I would like to think that most teachers, vast, vast majority of teachers are instilling in our children the same values that we seem to agree on as a society are good."

The question now becomes whether police will release the tapes.

Chief Zack declined to comment on this story.

If the recordings are released, Morgan says the character of the teachers could be destroyed and they could be disciplined by the school district.

Before taking any action on the teachers, the school district says it wants to first, hear the tapes in their entirety so it can complete its investigation into the teachers, before deciding on whether to dismiss them.

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