Suarez said her office prosecuted a year-old Union City teacher and the man is scheduled to be sentenced later this month after pleading guilty to criminal sexual contact involving a year-old student. The union chief's claim about the teacher came during an undercover video produced by conservative group Project Veritas and posted online May 3. In the video, a woman identified as Kathleen Valencia, president of the Union City Education Association, tells a woman working undercover for Project Veritas that a Union City teacher had "sex with a teenage girl" and was in no legal trouble because the child did not press charges.
The minute video caused such a stir that the Union City school district said the same day that Valencia had been suspended and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney announced he plans to hold hearings to investigate the video. In her statement, Suarez said her office spoke to officials with the Union City and statewide teachers unions and confirmed that the teacher Valencia referred to is Dennis Palatini, of Clifton.
Palatini is accused of initiating sexual contact starting in November with a female student who at the time was 16 years old, according to a criminal complaint. He was a teacher at the district's academy for at-risk high school students and asked the girl to send him nude photos of her and to write a "sexual narrative" involving a teacher and a student, the complaint says. The victim told police he drove her to a parking garage and committed a sexual act while she was in the car, according to the complaint.
Valencia was widely condemned for her comments regarding the teacher she said had "sex with a student. She expressed fear to Valencia that her brother would get fired as a result. Don't worry, Valencia told her, holding up a file. You're not going to jail," Valencia says. Sex with a teenage girl. Is he going to jail? Because the child's not pressing charges. Palatini is scheduled to be sentenced on May His attorney, Tim Smith, said in an email he could not comment on the case.
Palatini and current representative s of the Union City Education Association cooperated fully and expeditiously with requests of the highly professional members of the Hudson County Prosecutors Office to ameliorate any very understandable concerns of possible unreported instance s of child abuse," Smith's email reads. Valencia is still listed as president of the UCEA on its website.
A call placed to her cell phone says the number has been changed. An email seeking comment was not immediately returned. Lauro said the school district alerted the HCPO as soon as it learned of the allegations against Palatini.
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