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Case against Niagara Falls principal involved girls younger than 15

NIAGARA FALLS – Three female students were all younger than 15 when they allegedly had sexual contact with 79th Street School Principal Patrick M. Kuciewski, but officials are barred from prosecuting the case, because no force was involved and the incidents happened more than 15 years ago.

Legally, children younger than 18 are unable to give consent, but because no force was involved, the statute of limitations has closed and prosecutors are barred from pursuing the case. The statute begins after a victim’s 18th birthday. “It’s so outrageous. He took advantage of these students, but we can’t choose which laws we can prosecute and which laws we can ignore,” Chief of Detectives Capt. William M. Thomson said.

Thomson said the girls recently came forward.

Under 1996 law, cases of sexual assault had to be prosecuted within five years of a victim’s 18th birthday, and sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor, must be prosecuted within two years of the 18th birthday. The laws were tightened in 2006, with no statute for cases involving force, but they continue to bar prosecuting misdemeanors beyond the two-year time frame.

Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto said the charges had merit and that police would have sought to charge Kuciewski if not for the statute of limitations.

School Attorney Angelo Massaro said none of the charges involved students at the 79th Street School, an elementary school where Kuciewski served as principal and is now on paid administrative leave. Massaro said school officials are nearly done with their investigation.

According to the district website, as a teacher, Kuciewski was director of the instrumental music program at Niagara Middle School and Niagara Falls High School. He served as administrator for the VC House at Niagara Falls High School, and he was assistant principal at Gaskill Middle School and Harry F. Abate Elementary School before his current position at 79th Street School.