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No other sex affairs linked to teacher

Investigators so far have found no evidence that James D. Van Valkinburgh -- the Sacred Heart Academy teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student -- had similar affairs with other students.

And Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said he expects to talk with Van Valkinburgh's attorney about a possible plea deal that would preclude a trial.

Clark, though, emphasized that any deal would have to include a guilty plea to felony charges.

Thursday in Amherst Town Court, Paul Bender, Van Valkinburgh's attorney, waived a felony hearing.

"It's being presented directly to the grand jury on completion of the prosecution's investigation," Bender told reporters outside court Thursday afternoon.

In the case involving a 16-year-old student at the all-girls school in Eggertsville, Van Valkinburgh, 42, of the Town of Tonawanda, faces seven counts of third-degree rape -- commonly called "statutory rape" -- plus charges of endangering the welfare of a child and third-degree sexual abuse.

Under the state's Criminal Procedure Law, third-degree rape applies when one participant is younger than 17 and the other older than 21, even if no force was involved.

"Right now, the investigation has not discovered that he was ever involved intimately with any student at any time, other than this one," Clark said.

But it has revealed that, during normal school events, the student and teacher became "enamored with each other, and that relationship ripened into intimacy," the district attorney added.

The seven third-degree rape charges are all class E felonies.

"Our position is that any disposition would have to be a plea to two or more felonies," Clark said.

At Thursday afternoon's brief court appearance, Amherst Justice Geoffrey K. Klein kept Van Valkinburgh's bail at $100,000 cash or bond. The former teacher then was returned to the Erie County Holding Center.

While saying his client remains upset and embarrassed, Bender said he was handling the whole situation as well as could be expected.

Van Valkinburgh was fired from his teaching job Oct. 25 and arrested last Friday night.


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