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Ex-teacher said to have had several encounters with teen Latest episode spurs DA to file rape charge

Cara L. Dickey met "numerous" times with her 14-year-old former student since early July, even after a judge ordered her not to contact the boy, authorities say.

One of those clandestine meetings occurred in a West Seneca parking lot -- and led police to arrest Dickey last week on a second-degree rape charge.

Law enforcement officials investigating the relationship between teacher and student believe that wasn't the first sexual encounter between the two.

"In the first case [up to June 16], we believed there was sexual contact, but we had insufficient legal evidence to charge it," Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said Tuesday before a felony hearing on the rape charge.

"In the second case [since early July], we again believe that there was sexual contact, but this time we have, in our opinion, a sufficient legal basis to charge it."

Dickey's attorney, Daniel J. Chiacchia, had a different version of events.

Was their relationship more than the normal teacher-student relationship? Chiacchia asked rhetorically.

"Yes, it was, but it wasn't of the sexual nature they're alleging," Chiacchia said.

Law enforcement officials say that the former teacher and student met at least several times since early July, in defiance of a court order of protection forbidding any kind of contact between the two.

"On several different occasions, apparently, she picked him up in the area and took him to some location within the town," West Seneca Police Chief Edward F. Gehen Jr. said.

After being arrested in early July on two felony and two misdemeanor charges in connection with her relationship with the boy, Dickey was arrested again last week on one count of second-degree rape.

"She's charged with one count, but we're looking into other possible encounters," Gehen said.

Dickey's rape case will go to an Erie County grand jury after an hourlong closed felony hearing was held Tuesday afternoon in West Seneca Town Court.

Three people testified at the hearing before West Seneca Town Justice Richard B. Scott, who found sufficient evidence in the case to send it to the grand jury. Authorities refused to confirm that the victim testified.

Scott closed the hearing to everyone -- including Dickey's husband and relatives of the 14-year-old boy she's accused of raping.

"It's being closed because there's a minor involved," Scott said prior to the hearing.

After the hearing, Dickey was taken in handcuffs back to jail. Chiacchia said he plans to file a written motion to have Dickey's bail lowered from the current $50,000.

"She continues to profess her innocence," her attorney said. "Obviously, she's upset by all this. She has a family and doesn't want to put her family through this. She's held up quite well."

Dickey was charged with second-degree rape, which applies when a person 18 or older engages in sexual relations with a person younger than 15, who, by law, is incapable of giving consent.

Authorities refused to say Tuesday whether the rape charge is based on a statement from the boy.

"I'm not going to say whether either party has made any statements," Clark said.

Tuesday, Clark seemed dead set against any possible plea deal in the case.

"I think now, after all that happened and there being an order of protection, I'm not interested in any plea in this case," Clark said.

Anyone convicted of second-degree rape in New York State could face 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

Following her arrest and release in July, Dickey continued contacting the boy through phone and text messages, and that prompted police and the district attorney's office to continue monitoring the former teacher, law enforcement officials suggested Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, another judge warned Dickey that she faces more jail time if she tries to contact the boy.

State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski told Dickey that if she tries to contact the boy or have someone contact him for her, it will constitute "a separate and distinct prosecutable offense."

Colleen Curtin Gable, head of the Erie County district attorney's Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit, who is the chief prosecutor in the two cases against Dickey, told the judge the protection order needed to be extended because it had been set to expire this week. It was extended to April.

Dickey lost her job as a teacher at South Buffalo Charter School in June following allegations of an inappropriate relationship with the former student, who went missing for about 21 hours June 16 and 17.

She was charged with felony counts of promoting a suicide attempt and unlawful imprisonment and misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawfully dealing with a child.

Last week, following the rape charge, Dickey was sent to jail after Scott increased her bail from $5,000 to $50,000.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com and mgryta@buffnews.com

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