How does a superintendent of schools, a person responsible for the education, safety and welfare of thousands of students, end up testifying in court in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence for a convicted sex offender?
That's the question we sought to get answered when we requested an interview with Anthony Day, Thursday morning. The interview happened Friday.
Day has been the superintendent of the Sweet Home Central School District for almost 20 years. On December 7, he took a personal day from work to travel down to Meadville, Pennsylvania to be one of five character witnesses in the sentencing hearing of 54 year-old Luiz Pereira.
"I've known this gentleman for eight years," Day told investigative reporter Emily Lampa. "He's been my neighbor and, throughout the time I've known him, he's been a man of extremely high character. He's been a great friend. He's been a great father, great husband."
The Meadville Tribune reports that Pereira was convicted in September of felony unlawful contact with a minor, as well as sex offenses and a misdemeanor count corruption of minors.
This jury verdict was for a 2017 incident where Pereira sexually touched an 11-year-old boy through his clothes at a home in Meadville, Pennsylvania where he had been staying while working as an administrator at Allegheny College.
"When he told me this summer that he had been charged in this incident," explains Day, "you know, frankly I was stunned. Because the nature of the charges and what I knew were completely in-congruent."
Day says when Pereira asked him to be a character witness in his sentencing two weeks ago, Day knew he faced an ethical dilemma
"I'm not trying to condone the behavior, I'm not even commenting on the behavior. That's not my thing," Day said. "But, you know, a judge was going to make a determination about what to do and how to impact this man's life and I began to feel that it was my obligation to offer what I knew of him, so that the judge could make the very best decision he could."
The judge ended up sentencing Pereira to probation, no jail time, and he must register as a sexual offender for the next 25 years.
Day admits he understands concerns that his decision may be seen as a conflict, "But I also know that in my job, everyday, there is no black and white and there's nuances that always have to be taken into account."
"I don't feel I compromised my ability to service the kids," added Day, "because I wasn't condoning behavior. And Mr. Pereira will do what he needs to do legally to clear his name. But all I offered was to say, 'This is a picture of a man, so when you do this part of your job, judge...here's the picture."
Prior to testifying, Day did ask the school board for permission and they gave him their full support.
"We knew about the consequences down the road," school board president Mike Morrow said speaking for the board. "But we felt that he was doing the right thing for his neighbor and friend."
After agreeing to speak to 2 On Your Side on Friday, the Sweet Home Central school board sent out this letter notifying parents and staff about the Superintendent's decision and reasons for testifying in court.
READ LETTER HERE: Sweet Home Central BOE Letter
In this letter, the board stated that Luiz Pereira plans to appeal his conviction.