Attorney General Cuomo Announces Guilty Plea From Substitute Teacher Who Lied About Prior Manslaughter Conviction

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 20, 2009) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the guilty plea of an Erie County man who lied about a prior manslaughter conviction in order to continue working as a substitute public school teacher.

Howard Eisenman, 60, of Springville, pleaded guilty today before Albany County Court Judge Thomas Breslin to Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (class E Felony) which carries a maximum sentence of four years in jail.  Eisenman was released on his own recognizance pending sentencing on April 14.

According to court records, Eisenman lied to the State Education Department when he submitted a letter claiming that his prior conviction stemmed from a car crash when it was actually the result of an incident in which a two year-old girl died after he struck her while living in Long Island in the 1970’s.

“This defendant took advantage of a weakness in the system to infiltrate New York public schools by covering up his conviction for the death of a toddler,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Ensuring the safety of our schools is a critical first step in maintaining a positive learning environment for students, and my office will aggressively pursue anyone whose lies could put children at risk.”

The case was referred to the Attorney General by the State Education Department.

State Education Commissioner Richard Mills said, "I am grateful that Attorney General Cuomo acted so swiftly to arrest and prosecute Mr. Eisenman. Ensuring student safety is of paramount importance to the Board of Regents. To better protect students, the Regents have recently strengthened our regulations to obtain more extensive background information about individuals’ criminal histories. I will continue to refer criminal matters like Mr. Eisenman's to the Attorney General."

Since 2001, the New York State Education Department (“SED”) requires background checks for individuals who wish to be employed by school districts, charter schools and Boards of Cooperative Educational services (BOCES), including substitute teachers. As part of this clearance procedure, prospective employees must submit their fingerprints.  Fingerprints are then sent to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (“DCJS”) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine if the individual has a criminal record.

In July 2004, according to court records, the SED received fingerprints from Eisenman as he sought clearance to work as a substitute teacher in the Jefferson-Lewis B.O.C.E.S. DCJS then notified the SED that in late 1973, Eisenman had been arrested for manslaughter in the second degree, convicted the following year and sentenced to a minimum of two years and maximum 10 years in prison. Based on the background check, state education officials sent Eisenman notice that they intended to deny him clearance for employment unless he submitted a response satisfactorily explaining why he should be cleared.

In September 2004, according to court records, the SED received a letter from Eisenman stating that his conviction for Manslaughter in the Second Degree was based upon an incident in which he was driving a car that hit a tree head on, resulting in the death of a passenger. Based upon this explanation and recommendation letters that were submitted on Eisenman’s behalf, the SED cleared the him to work as a substitute teacher.

However, in reality, Eisenman’s Manslaughter in the Second Degree conviction was based upon a Nassau County indictment stating that, on or about November 30, 1973, the defendant and another person in Mineola recklessly caused the death of a two year-old girl by striking her with their hands, causing injuries resulting in the child’s death on December 1, 1973.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Richard Ernst under the supervision of Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly.  This case was investigated by Office of the Attorney General Investigators Leslie Arp, Denise Crawford and Sandra Migaj under the supervision of Deputy Chief Investigators David Adams and James L. Domres.

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