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Newfane School Board backs band Asks officials to drop trespassing charges over rooftop prank

Was it a prank or a crime?

Four seniors who climbed up on the Newfane High School roof the morning of June 12 and performed two songs have gotten more fame for the stunt than the average senior prank.

They also got charged with criminal trespassing and were banned from graduation ceremonies.

This week, the Newfane School Board nearly unanimously voted to ask the district attorney, sheriff and town judge to drop criminal charges against Aaron Brown, Christopher Florio, Paul Giazzon and Jesse Jolley.

"Of all the issues we've dealt with in the past year -- the audit [about improper computer use], the superintendent's resignation and resignation of School Board members -- this has gotten the most comments," new board President Donna Pieszala told The Buffalo News on Wednesday. "There has been a certain amount of sympathy [for the boys]. We've all gotten comments. Even people from other districts are commenting on this."

The four teens, who were allowed to receive their diplomas, had called the rooftop concert a senior prank designed to imitate the Beatles' last live performance in London.

The boys were charged after they were asked to come down by Principal Steven Burley and refused, Niagara County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Christopher Carlin said last month.

Board of Education member Carl Steiffenhofer said then that the action taken against the boys was right. He continued to support the charges at Tuesday's meeting, as the lone board member to vote against dropping the motion. Four other members who remain on the board voted yes.

Steiffenhofer said Tuesday night that he was upset that the prank became such a hot topic and felt there should be consequences.

Pieszala said board members discussed the motion in executive session because it dealt with a disciplinary action but said the board majority agreed that the charges should be dropped.

"A lot of thought went into this," she said.

She said the original disciplinary action was made by the high school principal and said the board was not consulted.

"The School Board had no say in not allowing [the boys] to come to graduation, but the principal was just doing his job. We got a lot of phone calls and told people that we would just let it take its course," said Pieszala.

Town Justice Bruce Barnes has recused himself from this case because he is a part-time studio arts teacher at Newfane High School. The other Newfane justice, Gayle S. Maynard, is presiding over the case.

District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III said he will review the case with deputies and probably decide how the case will proceed by the next court day, Tuesday.

"The school is the victim in this case," Murphy said, "and in any case we have to take into consideration what the victim has in mind."


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