A former Raleigh school leader was found not guilty Monday of aiding in the sexual abuse of a middle school student by a former teacher.
Nancy Errichetti, the former head of the Montessori School of Raleigh, cried as jurors returned the verdict late Monday. She had been accused of knowing about a teacher’s past incidents of abuse but not doing anything to prevent it from happening to another student.
Errichetti, 59, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. She was arrested in 2018 at the school by Raleigh police, The News & Observer previously reported.
She had initially been charged with a felony of aiding and abetting taking indecent liberties with a child, but a judge removed this charge on Friday. The trial began July 27.
Errichetti could have faced a two-year sentence.
The jury went into deliberations Monday afternoon after closing arguments. The 12 jurors deliberated for about two hours and 45 minutes before rendering the unanimous verdict.
Prosecutors argued Errichetti knew about Nicholas Conlon Smith’s inappropriate behavior with young girls while he taught at Montessori School, but failed to take action, resulting in the abuse of another student in 2016.
Both victims of the abuse were sisters and students of the school.
Smith, 41, a former math teacher at the school, was arrested and charged in 2017 with 17 counts of statutory rape or sex offense and four counts of sex offense.
He pleaded guilty in August 2020 to 11 felony sex offenses, including statutory rape, a sex act with a student and the sexual exploitation of a minor, The N&O previously reported. He is serving 25 years and testified during the trial. He must serve a minimum of 17 years of his sentence.
Errichetti became head of the school in 2012. Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita argued that she was aware of the complaints of the inappropriate behavior in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016.
For an hour, Shekita argued that not only did Errichetti know about the abuse but even promoted Smith and let him continue taking overnight trips with students.
Shekita said Errichetti, having known about the behavior, could have prevented the abuse of the victim’s younger sister. She said the former head of school had the power to take action against Smith years earlier but chose not to.
She asked the jury to find Errichetti guilty of the charges.
“Who protects us from our protectors?” Shekita asked the jury. “Who protects the children?”
Errichetti’s defense attorney, Eileen Hurley, argued Monday that the former school leader did not know about the abuse. If she had known, Hurley said, she would have acted and would have done more than just fire Smith. She also spent an hour on her closing argument.
Hurley contended that Errichetti tried to take action but did not have enough evidence or information on the matter. She said Errichetti was the first person to confront Smith about the complaints when she learned of them and set guidelines for Smith about spending time with students.
“Why are we here? We’re here because they want someone to blame. Because everybody’s upset that that creep, Nick Smith, did what he did,” Hurley said.
Hurley also disputed that Errichetti knew about the abuse in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2016.
“This is not a criminal case with criminal intent,” Hurley said. “This is a woman who did everything she could.”
Errichetti no longer works at the school.
After the verdict was read by the clerk of court, Errichetti was greeted by supporters and Hurley, who shared hugs and tears. Supporters for the two victims in the case silently left the courtroom along with Shekita through the back of the courtroom.
Neither party commented on the verdict.
Staff writer Virginia Bridges contributed to this report.