Jan. 21—Lawyers for a Norwin middle school teacher and her husband on trial for charges they did not comply with child safety laws told a Westmoreland County jury on Friday no crimes were committed.
Tobitha Sasso, 42, and Brad Geyer, 39, both of Greensburg are on trial for misdemeanor charges related to allegations they did not properly follow rules that prevent adults convicted of crimes against children to volunteer at school functions.
Sasso served as director and for the Norwin Middle School production of "Frozen Jr." in February 2020 and, according to police, had Geyer help staff and students in the days that led up to the musical's opening and again during performances all while knowing he had been arrested in 2018 and convicted a year later of criminal charges in Fayette County.
"We do not deny Mr. Geyer was there, he was," said defense attorney Brian Aston in his opening statement to the jury. "There is nothing in the law that says he can't be there. The law says he can't be a volunteer."
The defense contends Geyer did nothing but watch rehearsals and performances and was present to support his wife. Geyer, prior to his arrest, actively served as a volunteer for school musical in 2018 and followed required protocol to receive clearances to work with children, Aston said.
Geyer was charged later in 2018 with multiple sex crimes involving children for an incidents that police said took between 2015 and 2017 in Connellsville, according to court records. In 2019 he pleaded guilty to lesser counts of corruption of a minor and furnishing alcohol to a child and was ordered to serve three years on probation.
Neither Geyer, nor Sasso, notified Norwin officials about the arrest or conviction which would have invalidated his clearances to serve as a volunteer, said Assistant District Attorney Theresa Miller-Sporrer.
She told jurors that Sasso brought Geyer to rehearsals and permitted him work with students and staff to help fix production issues with the musical and the performance of its centerpiece number "Let it Go."
"Ms. Sasso was afraid to fail this production. She wanted to succeed and he wanted to volunteer. They put their wants above the need to keep these kids safe," Miller-Sporrer said.
Norwin's Assistant Superintendent Natalie McCracken testified both Sasso and Geyer were required to inform school officials about his arrest and conviction within 72 hours but failed to do so. That notification would have invalidated his clearances to volunteer, she told jurors.
The musical's co-director and two music teachers who participated in rehearsals for "Frozen Jr." told jurors Geyer interacted with students in the days leading up to the performances.
Sasso has been off the job since her arrest in 2020. Aston said she is still under suspension and is awaiting a final disposition from the Norwin School Board.
Parents and students who participated in the musical's production are expected to testify Monday when the trial resumes.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .