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Lockport principal's daughter defends father at his endangerment trial

The accusations against James A. Snyder include inappropriate contact with an 11-year-old girl who previously testified that he brushed her hair, kissed her on the shoulders and said, "Hey, sexy," at a party for his own daughter at his house.

He also is accused of throwing a plastic bottle at his daughter during her 12th birthday party last July and shouting at her, "Go to hell! Go live with your mother!"

But when Snyder's daughter testified at his trial last week, she said none of those things ever happened.

A six-member jury will begin deliberations Tuesday to decide whether the 45-year-old principal of a Lockport junior high school is guilty of two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Snyder's daughter, who testified Friday at his trial, said she was next to her father during the entire hair-brushing incident.

She said the other girl did not sit on her father's lap, as the long-haired girl testified, and that the other girl started out sitting in a chair next to him and later knelt in front of him.  He brushed her hair because it was tangled after swimming and the girl had not showered.

Defense attorney Michele G. Bergevin asked Snyder's daughter for her account.

Did her father kiss the girl on the shoulders or on the hair?

No, the daughter replied.

Did he he say, "Hey, sexy," to that girl?

No, she said.

Had he thrown a water bottle at her?

No, she testified.

Snyder's daughter cried several times during her testimony, including when Bergevin asked her how she felt when all the guests fled her birthday party.

A 15-year-old babysitter testified earlier in the week that she decided to take everyone to a neighbor's house when Snyder started yelling.

The girl said that made her "sad," and she admitted screaming herself, but only because her father's noise was "annoying."

"Me and my friends were watching TV and playing a game," the daughter explained.

The daughter also testified that she didn't see her father drink alcohol at the party.

Lockport Police Officer Aaron Belling testified Monday that he thought Snyder was drunk when he responded to a call to the party.

City Judge Shawn P. Nickerson refused to allow First Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma to use a statement Snyder's children made to Child Protective Services that said the kids were "certain he was drinking alcohol and thought he was drinking vodka."

The judge, who received the case after both City of Lockport judges recused themselves, said the CPS statement was confidential, and a 12-year-old isn't old enough to waive that confidentiality.

Snyder is divorced and shares custody of his daughter and son with his ex-wife.

Snyder was placed on administrative leave from North Park Junior High School after he was charged in August with two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Each carries a maximum one-year jail term.

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