Judge reduces bail and removes restrictions from school official accused of failing to report

Mar. 28—BEDFORD, Pa. — Monetary bail and related restrictive conditions were significantly lessened Wednesday for Chestnut Ridge Middle School assistant principal Patrick Isgan, who faces what attorney Thomas Dickey said are defaming charges that he is confident won't stand as the case progresses.

The bail modification, Dickey said, "restores my faith in the criminal justice system."

Bedford County Magisterial District Judge Brian Baker slashed Isgan's bail Wednesday from $1 million straight bail to 10% of $100,000 unsecured bail, or $10,000.

Isgan is accused of failing to report sexual offenses allegedly committed on a school bus by a 12-year-old boy against an 8-year-old girl and later against three children — two age 6 and another age 5.

The original bail amount, set March 15 by Magisterial District Judge Kevin Diehl at the request of the Bedford County District Attorney's office, was informed, Dickey said, by bail set for a case which preceded it — bail had been set at $1 million each for two defendants charged with 99 counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.

In Isgan's case as well as the other, Dickey said the $1 million bail requirement was "unconscionable and illegal."

Baker modified bail in both cases Wednesday.

Isgan's $1 million bail had already been posted for Isgan by Sean Isgan, who was present for the bail hearing Wednesday among 10 other supporters who filled the small courtroom in the Bedford County Courthouse. Many other supporters — teachers, neighbors, mothers and fathers — waited in another courtroom, Dickey said.

With Baker's decision, the bail paid by Sean Isgan will be refunded to him.

Baker also removed non-monetary bail conditions that prohibited Isgan from having contact with minors or being within 500 feet of any areas where minors typically gather.

He granted Bedford County District Attorney Ashlan Clark's condition that Isgan not supervise children who are not in his family.

Patrick Isgan's hearing Wednesday was solely for the purpose of bail modifications and not a preliminary hearing to decide the merit of the charges. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but continued to April 17 despite Dickey's objections.

"My client wants to move forward from these defaming charges," he said.

Dickey argued for Isgan's character, making a note of his background as a special education teacher with experience at Everett Area School District as well as Chestnut Ridge.

He said Isgan is gainfully employed by the school district "as we sit," though confirmation of his specific work status could not be immediately confirmed by the district Wednesday.

Isgan was charged with 62 counts of endangering the welfare of children, and two felony charges of failure to report and continuing failure to report related to alleged sexual assault of students on a school bus from Nov. 2 to February, according to Bedford County authorities.

However, those charges, Dickey argued Wednesday during Isgan's bail hearing, are contradicted by information in the related affidavit that was approved by the Bedford County District Attorney's Office.

Dickey referred to the affidavit Wednesday, saying that Isgan reviewed the Nov. 2 school bus footage with another school official after a representative of the transportation company emailed the school district about alleged "sexual harassment" of a student by another student.

They saw nothing that would constitute sexual assault at that time, but Isgan questioned the child suspect, who denied the allegations. Out of an abundance of caution, Dickey said, Isgan removed the boy in question from that bus temporarily, as the affidavit states.

Following further allegations from parents of other children in February, Isgan reviewed the Nov. 2 footage again and saw what "may be" inappropriate touching and reported to ChildLine.

"What didn't he report?" Dickey said.

In all, Dickey counted five mandated reporters involved in the school system involved in handling the allegations.

If there was a failure in reporting, he said, he questioned why charges haven't been brought against the school's other mandated reporters mentioned in the affidavit.

"They aren't charged because there is no crime," he said, "and Patrick committed no crime."

He also stressed that all the information in the affidavit was provided by Isgan, who fully cooperated with police.

Clark declined to respond to Dickey's argument by litigating matters that will be taken up during a preliminary hearing, but she said the charges are appropriate and witnesses will testify during the preliminary hearing.

She also stood by the $1 million straight bail requirement and related conditions.

"Our concern is the safety of the public," she said.

She said there are nearly 60 other children affected by the case.

"Their families are not participating today, but they have to be considered as well," she said.