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Shen teacher's statements valid, judge says

A Saratoga County judge has ruled that Christopher Culver, the 33-year-old Clifton Park elementary school teacher accused of multiple sexual crimes against eight boys under age 11, knew of his rights and voluntarily made statements to state police in February at the Clifton Park police barracks.

Last month, in the courtroom before Judge Jerry Scarano, two state police officers said Culver admitted he had engaged in sexual misconduct with at least six boys from his classroom at the Okte Elementary School, where he had taught for eight years. The admissions were made, according to police, after Culver agreed to accompany them back to the station, and told his wife, Kristi Culver, he did not want her to call anyone on his behalf.

Defense attorney Terence Kindlon sought to have the oral statements suppressed and kept from the records that a jury will hear in an upcoming, but as yet unscheduled, criminal trial, arguing that Culver had not been properly advised of his rights to remain silent and obtain an attorney before being questioned.

Christopher's fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination and sixth amendment rights to counsel were violated, said Kindlon.

Kindlon also pointed out to the court that no tape recording was made of the interviewing session between Culver and the state police.

However, in his written statement dated Sept. 7, Scarano shot down the notion that Culver was in any way coerced to make the statements.

"There is no evidence that said statements were obtained in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights, nor by use or threatened use of force, nor by means of improper conduct," wrote Scarano. "This court gives little credence to the defendant's version of events."

Culver is now suspended with pay from his job as a kindergarten and first-grade teacher at Okte Elementary School. This past summer, Culver pleaded not guilty before Scarano to a total of 49 criminal counts, including 29 counts of sexual abuse in the first-degree, 12 counts of sexual conduct against a child, second-degree, and eight counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

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