By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
A former West Middlesex High School teacher pleaded guilty recently to corruption of a minor for a relationship that a student called “more then a friendship.”
Robert A. Palko Jr., 38, of Hubbard, entered a guilty plea Nov. 5 to the least serious charge he faced, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Charges of criminal use of a cellular telephone, unlawful contact with a minor, child pornography and sexual abuse of a child, all felonies, were withdrawn by the prosecution.
“We are satisfied with the result of this case,” said Assistant Mercer County District Attorney Daniel Davis. “The victim was happy with the plea, preferring not to testify in this case.”
Corruption is a first-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum prison sentence of 2è to 5 years.
The victim, a 15-year-old girl, testified at Palko’s preliminary hearing in April that she did not have any classes with Palko, a former Shenango Township supervisor, but joined the art club, and would go to his room during study hall.
Palko was an art teacher who resigned in January.
Palko and the girl also texted, the subjects including problems in her personal life, and she would go on art club field trips with him, she said.
The girl, who was 14 when she first met Palko, sent him a nude photograph of herself, and he would rub her stomach over and under her clothes, she said.
School officials were alerted when another student looked at the girl’s phone as the girl was checking for a return of a text message she had sent to Palko, and the student saw the naked photo the girl had sent him, the girl said.
The student asked what the photo was and the victim told her it was a photo for Palko, the victim said.
Palko remains free on bond.