A New Jersey appeals court Tuesday refused to dismiss the 2007 indictment of a former Kingsway Regional High School teacher, according to the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.
Emma Painter, 51, of Clayton was indicted on charges of witness-tampering and official misconduct, both counts involving an alleged attempt to persuade a student to recant statements about a sexual relationship between the student and another Kingsway teacher.
Painter was convicted on both charges on Dec. 5, 2008, but the guilty finding in the non-jury trial was overturned when an appeals court found the trial judge erred in determining the verdict, according to authorities.
A retrial was ordered but Painter pleaded guilty on July 23, 2012 to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to probation and 150 hours of community service. The original misconduct and tampering charges were dismissed, according to authorities.
Painter then filed an appeal seeking dismissal of her indictment.
According to the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office:
In its 13-page opinion today, the appeals panel pointed out that Painter waived her right to challenge her indictment when pleading guilty to obstruction. The judges also rejected the appeal’s arguments that the prosecution did not present an essential element of the crimes and did not reveal evidence of Painters’ innocence to the indicting grand jury.
“The defendant was properly indicted and was properly tried by the State,” said Senior Assistant Gloucester County Prosecutor Audrey Curwin, who prosecuted Painter. “Today’s decision provides finality to a young female student who was caught in an emotional trap between two teachers.”
The teacher with whom the student acknowledged she had a sexual relationship, Erica Umosella, 34, of Glassboro,pleaded guilty in 2008 to misconduct in connection with the relationship. She was sentenced to probation and barred from future public employment in New Jersey.
In its findings, the appellate judges cited a detective’s grand jury testimony that supported Painter’s indictment, and that Painter acknowledged her conduct was illegal but didn’t care because she loved Umosella.
Other statements that the defense said demonstrated Painter’s innocence - that she didn’t believe the student had told the truth about Umosella - were dismissed by the appeals court as “nothing more than self-serving.”