MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A West Harlem teacher was arraigned Thursday evening on charges that he sexually molested an 8-year-old girl.
Rafael Sosa, 28, a third-grade teacher at P.S. 208, was held on $75,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual conduct against a child, one count of sexual abuse and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
Prosecutors said that between December 2011 and last week, Sosa sexually assaulted the girl on multiple occasions.
Prosecutors added that Sosa, who is married and has a 5-year-old son, gained the trust of the victim’s family by buying lunch, sneakers and an iPhone for the victim's 10- and 12-year-old brothers. He also allegedly bought the victim Nintendo video games, lunch and an iPad.
Then, prosecutors said, Sosa gave the student his email address and instructed her to write him in an email: “I love you, I miss you, My heart belongs to you.” He also instructed her to call him “Dad,” prosecutors said.
Virginia LoPreto, Sosa’s defense attorney, claimed there was not “a shred of corroboration” and that her client would not have been able to get away with the abuse because there were too many other students and adults at the school that would have intervened.
She added that instructing the alleged victim to use the term “Dad” was not a sign of misconduct.
“It speaks of a relationship that is not sexual, that is not inappropriate,” LoPreto said.
LoPreto, who requested Sosa be released on his own recognizance, called the $75,000 bail “unreasonable.”
Sosa is at least the tenth public school employee to be arrested on sexual abuse charges this year.