- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A high school teacher charged with intimidating a student by pointing her out to classmates as the person who accused his co-worker of an inappropriate sexual relationship was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on witness intimidation charges.

Plum High School teacher Drew Zoldak, 40, told his class last month that he missed school so he could be interviewed by detectives. He pointed out the student and said it was “because of her,” police said.

Police said he then called the girl to the front of his forensic science class and asked if she would be OK regarding next week’s topic, which was sexual assault.

Defense attorney Alexander Lindsay said even if that evidence was true, it didn’t constitute witness intimidation.

“An element of that crime is they had to intimidate her to do or not do something … and there was no indication or no hint that she wasn’t supposed to continue to cooperate (with authorities) or anything of that nature,” Lindsay said after the preliminary hearing Wednesday.

The girl testified that she “wanted to go away and hide” after Zoldak’s remarks to her class. She said the comments “kind of made me feel that I was doing the wrong thing and I shouldn’t cooperate” with authorities.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they are the victims of a sex crime.

Two teachers - 40-year-old Joseph Ruggieri, of New Kensington, and 38-year-old Jason Cooper, of Verona - are each charged with having an improper sexual relationship with a female student, including the one Zoldak is accused of trying to intimidate. They are awaiting trial.

Those cases have prompted an investigation by the Allegheny County district attorney’s office into whether school district officials knew of and properly dealt with other complaints about inappropriate faculty-student relationships.

The district has said it is cooperating with the investigation.


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