Rape Teen Flips NYC School Teacher Cleared Of Rape

Rape charges against teacher dropped
By Ann Givens NEWSDAY STAFF WRITER

After he was charged with statutory rape two years ago, George Zanetis lost his job as a New York City school teacher, lost his wife and lost contact with his two children.

Today, the charges that caused his life to fall apart were dropped by the Nassau District Attorney's Office.

Zanetis, 44 of Roslyn, formerly a teacher at Aviation High School , a public school in Long Island City City, was arrested in June 2004 and charged with having sex with a 16 year old student. But after Zanetis' arrest the girl, whose name was not released, recanted her statement, and denied that they had sex.

In recent months, prosecutors preparing for Zanetis' trial could not reach the girl and ultimately could not make their case without her. "She recanted on her testimony from day one," said Eric Phillips, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. "Without her, we simply could not go forward."

Zanetis and his lawyer, William Petrillo of Rockville Centre Centre, now say investigators may have intimidated the girl by keeping her in custody until she incriminated Zanetis.

"People who had always been on my side turned against me without evidence," Zanetis said. "My life has been wiped out and now I have to start over."

Richard Condon, special commissioner of investigation for the New York City School District , said his investigators did nothing wrong. He said the fact that the girl recanted does not change his mind about Zanetis' guilt.

"I feel they were engaged in a sexual relationship," he said. "This outcome does not change my mind about that." He added that an investigation report shows that Zanetis had called the girl 30 times, and she had called him 134 times in a 10 month period.

Zanetis said he had an innocent relationship with the girl, and had agreed to drive her to the subway after school occasionally, with the consent of her legal guardian. He said he was shocked in June 2004 when investigators pulled them over and questioned them.

Initially, Zanetis said he agreed to plead guilty to the lesser crime of endangering the welfare of a child because he was misinformed by a previous lawyer about the law, and he was afraid of what would happen if he went to trial. But after hiring Petrillo, Zanetis was able to vacate his plea, an unusual step in a criminal case.

Zanetis is waiting now for a school district arbitrator to decide whether he can return to work. Condon said the dismissal of the charges will have no bearing on Zanetis' reinstatement, as he may have committed other offenses that could result in firing.

Zanetis said that after he was charged, he and his wife separated and he lost contact with his two children, ages 12 and 14, though he had begun visiting one recently. "I went from being with my kids every day, helping them with their homework, to not being with them at all," Zanetis said. "These are the pieces I'm going to have to put back together."

Rape Teen Flips By Kiernan Crowley NEW YORK POST STAFF WRITER

A judge yesterday tossed out a statutory-rape charge against a high-school teacher in Queens because his alleged 16-year old victim recanted her story. "I've been through hell and back," accused instructor George Zanetis said through tears after the hearing. "I lost my marriage, my profession, my reputation, my kids the whole nine yards. This has devastated my life."

Zanetis, 44, a popular air­craft-maintenance teacher at Aviation HS in Long Island City, Queens. Long Island City , was busted in June 2004 after allegedly having sex with the teen in his parked car at a Jones Beach parking lot. Authorities first caught wind of the reputed relationship after another teacher at the school heard the rumors and notified the principal, who then contacted them.

Zanetis' lawyer, William Petrillo, said the girl was interrogated for 2 1/2 hours by investigators, who told her "she could leave only if she signed a statement" written by one of them. Petrillo, who was not Zanetis' lawyer at the time, said the teen immediately recanted her statement, but the case continued.

Zanetis said that his previous lawyer, who was not identified, convinced the teacher to plead guilty to the lesser, non sexual offense of endangering the welfare of a minor. Zanetis said he was told he supposedly faced conviction and jail time even if the "victim" testified at trial that he was innocent.

The turning point in Zanetis' ordeal came during a court ordered group-coun­seling session following his plea, when the teacher was encouraged to confess and get help. He said that he couldn't because he was innocent, and that the girl had recanted her signed statement. The counselor said that if that were true, he should never have pleaded guilty and did not belong in the group.

She encouraged him to fight, and he backed out of the plea deal. Zanetis went to Petrillo, who was able to convince a Long Island judge to then drop the reinstated, more serious charge. The DA consented to the motion to dismiss.

The teen "recanted from day one, and she's been totally uncooperative with us in our efforts to prosecute him," said a spokesman for Nassau DA Kathleen Rice, Eric Phillips. But Richard Condon, the commissioner of investigations for city schools, defended his probe, saying, ''They both made statements to the effect that they had a sexual relationship. Do I believe that he's guilty? Absolutely." Zanetis said his wife, Monica, "didn't believe me" when he protested his innocence, and she filed for divorce. "I'm not only clearing my name, but my family name," Zanetis said.

Our Team Leaders Among the Criminal Defense Bar

Achievements

Honors & Awards
  • President New York Criminal Bar Association 2015-Present.
  • Listed in 2016 Super Lawyers, New York Metro.
  • Listed in 2015 Super Lawyers, New York Metro.
  • Listed in 2014 National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Layers.
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  • Appointed on Homicide Panel, Appellate Division, First Department, in March 2012-Present.
  • Appointed on Criminal Justice Act Panel, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 2016.
  • Awarded Citation of Honor in September 2011 by New York State Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya for exemplary service through the practice of criminal defense.
  • Recognized in April 2011 by the Board of Directors of New York’s Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
  • Received Proclamation of Honor in 2010 by New York State Senator Jose Peralta for accomplishments in the profession of criminal defense and extraordinary contributions to the community.
  • Recognized in VerdictSearch’s Top New York Verdicts of 2010 for $1.9 million verdict following a jury trial in Queens Supreme Court.
  • Received Recognition of Honor in 2009 by New York’s Comite Fiestas Patrias Mexican-American organization for humanitarian actions and invaluable service in the field of criminal defense.
  • Awarded Citation of Honor in 2009, by President of the Borough of Queens, Hon. Helen M. Marshall, for outstanding leadership and work in the area of criminal defense.

 

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Testimonials

"As District Attorney of Nassau County for 31 years and a former federal prosecutor, I have encountered some of the best criminal defense attorney’s in New York State. The hallmark of a truly phenomenal criminal lawyer is the ability to be both a great trial lawyer and a strong negotiator, while maintaining credibility at all times. William Petrillo possesses these skills. He has earned a stellar reputation within the legal community as an outstanding, gifted trial attorney. Always a gentleman, honest and ethical, Mr. Petrillo is a fierce, persuasive litigator and a tough, fair negotiator. I would unequivocally recommend him to anyone in need of a criminal lawyer."

Honorable Denis Dillon - Former District Attorney, Nassau County and Former Federal Prosecutor

"If I or a loved one ever need the services of a criminal defense attorney, Bill Petrillo is the one I would count on for representation. No higher praise can be given to a fellow lawyer. Mr. Petrillo not only possesses excellent trial skills, but is also skillful at negotiating favorable dispositions for his clients. He treats everyone he encounters with respect and has earned the respect of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel. He is passionately devoted to his clients and constantly thinking of ways to benefit them. Finally, he is scrupulously honest and ethical while fighting tirelessly for the people he represents."

Fred B. Klein - Retired, Chief of Homicide, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office - Retired Attorney General

"Both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, Bill Petrillo tried many cases in front of me in Nassau County Court. He won just about every one of those trials. When an attorney constantly wins trials it means that jurors respect him. When jurors respect an attorney they will listen to him, will follow his line of reasoning and give serious consideration to his various arguments. To get jurors to that point the attorney must project honesty, must balance fairness with understanding for all involved, have an absolute knowledge of the facts of the case and the applicable law, and he must be able to create an atmosphere of mutual respect with the judge. Bill Petrillo possesses all of these qualities."

Honorable Donald DeRiggi - Retired, Nassau County Court Judge

"As a prosecuting attorney for almost 30 years, I have observed many trial lawyers. Of the few that I judged to be excellent, only one was uniquely skilled in all of the qualities that contribute to tremendous success in the courtroom. His name is Bill Petrillo. A brilliant strategist who leaves no stone unturned, Bill has a rare natural gift for trying cases. He is a passionate lawyer and has won cases that were considered unwinnable."

James Watson - Retired Deputy Bureau Chief, Nassau County District Attorney's Office and Former Federal Prosecutor

"Bill Petrillo is a giant in the criminal defense community. Time and again I have observed him fearlessly battle the government, negotiate extraordinary plea deals, obtain the dismissal of indictments or acquittals after trial. He regards his clients as family and tries to protect them accordingly."

Kevin T. Kearon, Esq. - Past President, Criminal Courts Bar Association of Nassau County

"As a judge, I presided over felony cases for ten years. Bill Petrillo appeared before me on many occasions. He is as tenacious and talented an attorney as I ever encountered. Bill is an extraordinary advocate and I would strongly recommend him."

Honorable Victor M. Ort - Retired Nassau County Judge

"Bill Petrillo is a relentless super-talent with incredible drive, focus and work ethic. He has a razor sharp mind and is lightning quick on his feet. Bill is as powerful, energetic and persuasive in the courtroom as any lawyer I have ever seen."

Michael S. Lamonsoff, Esq. - Board of Directors New York State Trial Lawyers Association and Member of New York State Ethics Committee

"Mr. Petrillo is one of the most talented, hard working, compassionate, ethical and moral individuals I have ever known."

J.H.

" Mr. Petrillo is a miracle worker. When faced with a situation that others told me was all but impossible to be resolved in a tolerable manner, Mr. Petrillo did the impossible. Throughout the whole process he was knowledgeable, honest, available, and incredibly professional. Having first gone to other highly recommended lawyers I was able to get a sense of different types of attorneys. Not only was the outcome something that the other attorneys couldn't dream of, but Mr. Petrillo's personality and general demeanor was miles beyond the others. In an incredibly trying time he was calming. But while he was pleasant to deal with personally, he also is incredibly fierce in the courtroom. You get the sense that what he does is not just his job, but his passion. There is nobody I would trust more."

Z.K.

"I was under state and federal investigation for multiple potential charges in a year long investigation. The first lawyer I consulted with suggested we go to the US Attorneys office, cooperate and agree to a quick plea, despite my telling him I had done nothing wrong. Shortly after that consultation I was given Mr. Petrillo's name from a friend who knew a criminal court Judge. It became obvious to me during my first meeting with Bill that his level of knowledge and expertise was far superior than my original lawyer. He had a completely different analysis of my case and the best course of action to take. Ten months later, without me ever speaking to law enforcement, eleven people were arrested. I was never prosecuted and will be forever grateful to William Petrillo."

M.O.

"Not only are you a phenomenal and brilliant lawyer, you are an amazing human being and we are grateful to know you on any level. Thank you for everything."

Z.K.

" Mr. Petrillo is a miracle worker. When faced with a situation that others told me was all but impossible to be resolved in a tolerable manner, Mr. Petrillo did the impossible. Throughout the whole process he was knowledgeable, honest, available, and incredibly professional. Having first gone to other highly recommended lawyers I was able to get a sense of different types of attorneys. Not only was the outcome something that the other attorneys couldn't dream of, but Mr. Petrillo's personality and general demeanor was miles beyond the others. In an incredibly trying time he was calming. But while he was pleasant to deal with personally, he also is incredibly fierce in the courtroom. You get the sense that what he does is not just his job, but his passion. There is nobody I would trust more."

S.E.

"Bill and his staff treated me with kindness and respect and the utmost professionalism which is very important when you are facing the uneasiness of criminal prosecution. Besides having a very impressive track record in the courtroom, it was apparent to me and my family that Bill is highly respected and well-liked by judges, lawyers and prosecuting attorneys. He was able to negotiate a great outcome in my case. If I opted to go to trial, there is not a shred of doubt in my mind that Bill was the man I wanted by my side. For a man who makes no promises, he sure delivers."

R.M.

"I consider myself extremely fortunate to have worked with William Petrillo when I was facing multiple felony charges. From our first meeting I felt Bill's passion for under taking whatever was necessary to insure that I receive proper representation. He is endowed with an extraordinary talent for understanding the client's fears and concerns while offering honest and straight forward information and advice. Mr. Petrillo is one of the hardest working people I ever met. He kept me fully informed as to the process and progress of my case. Finally, as opposed to many other attorneys who are not court experienced; Mr. Petrillo shined in court. His presentation of the details of my case held the courtroom captive. Not only did everyone come to understand the complications of the situation, but, more importantly, the resolution of the case reflected the hard work, diligence and devotion to his client. It is my great pleasure to recommend Mr. William S. Petrillo."

A.M.

"About a year and a half ago I ran into some legal trouble and needed legal representation. My wife's cousin is a corporate lawyer and she referred us to William Petrillo. Having never been on the wrong side of the law, I didn't know what to expect. I also didn't know if this would affect my employment status. I had a laundry list of concerns and questions. After my first consultation with Bill, he immediately struck me as personable, professional, confident and honest. He told me what all of my options were and also gave me his personal opinion. My best interest was always his primary concern. He always reiterated that no matter what legal avenue I chose to go down, he was in my corner 100%. I felt extremely confident that I had the chosen the right guy. And I definitely did. From the first court appearance right up to my last, Bill and his associate, Karen Bobley, always put their best foot forward. They never wanted to settle for anything less than what I had hoped for. At the end of my court proceedings, I did get the outcome I was looking for, and my friends and co-workers could not believe that it was possible, under the circumstances. I owe it all to Bill and his team. Whenever I needed legal documentation, for work or other purposes, Jennifer, Bill's office manager, was always on top of things. Jennifer would call me the day before any court appearances, as a reminder, and also give me the heads up on what would happen at that appearance. Whenever I had questions, Jennifer usually had an answer and if she didn't, Bill would, personally, return my call by the end of the day. Words do not truly describe the high level of service I received. Bill and company made a very stressful situation very manageable and I am forever grateful. Not only is Bill a great lawyer, but he's a wonderful person. And that's what separates him from the rest. So,if you ever find yourself in a legal bind, don't take chances or try to cut corners. Protect yourself and go with one of the best, William Petrillo."

O.W.