A lawyer representing an Avonworth Elementary School music teacher accused of raping a young relative said Thursday there is no evidence that the teacher molested anyone at the school, a concern of parents since his arrest last month.
Mike Santicola, attorney for suspended teacher Walter Street, 59, said no one has come forward to say they were assaulted by Mr. Street at school because there were no victims there.
"He was adamant about that from the beginning," he said. Mr. Santicola also said stories from parents about Mr. Street, who directed the grade-school chorus and had practices before and after school, holding children on his lap and hugging them should be taken "with a grain of salt."
"I don't think he's a danger to anyone," he said.
Mr. Street waived his preliminary hearing Thursday and District Judge Tara Smith of Bellevue sent him back to jail after cutting his bond in half, to $100,000.
Should he be able to make bond, she ordered that he have no contact with children, stay away from school property and live at his old address on Monitor Avenue in Ben Avon.
His wife and 13-year-old daughter live in nearby Ohio Township.
Mr. Street, an Avonworth teacher since 1989, the former high school band director and a music teacher at the elementary school for the last five years, was arrested last month by Ohio Township police based on rape allegations first raised in 2009.
The alleged victim, then 17 and now 22, said Mr. Street began raping her at the Ben Avon address when she was 11.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette does not identify the victims in sex crime cases.
She initially told her story to the director of a neighborhood ministry, who watched Thursday's proceedings in the gallery, but later recanted twice when interviewed by police in the presence of her mother, who was also in court Thursday.
After the holidays, fellow teachers at the school raised concerns that Mr. Street was acting inappropriately with children by holding them in his lap and hugging them. They told the superintendent, who seized Mr. Street's school laptop and found a letter addressed to the alleged victim that authorities said referenced a sexual relationship.
After police reviewed the letter, they showed it to the woman, who said her original story from 2009 was true. Officers then took Mr. Street into custody. He is charged with 12 counts of rape, aggravated indecent assault and related offenses. Mr. Street's next court date is a formal arraignment April 10 at the Allegheny County Courthouse.
Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-231-0132. First Published February 13, 2014 1:18 PM