Former Cliffside Park High School teacher sentenced to probation under plea deal on heroin charges
32-year-old Ryan Fogarty of Ridgefield, a former Cliffside Park High School teacher, was sentenced to probation Friday under a plea deal on heroin charges.
According to the authorities, Fogarty was found with 125 bags of heroin stuffed in a backpack which was found on the floor of his classroom. A number of pills, syringes, and other paraphernalia was present in the backpack along with the bags.
In March 2014, a student at School 6 reported finding a syringe on the floor of a bathroom to a teacher’s aide. The incident touched off a criminal investigation which was centered on three district teachers, including Fogarty who was a special education teacher. Two fifth grade teachers at School 6 were also under suspicion.
Previously, Fogarty taught at the middle school, which also shares a campus with School 6.
A police K-9 unit was brought to the school which helped identify Fogarty’s bag inside his classroom. He was charged and arrested for possession of a control dangerous substance.
Fogarty pleaded guilty to third degree possession of a control dangerous substance charge. He told the authorities that all the drugs were for his personal use.
During Fogarty’s sentencing before Superior Court Judge Christopher Kazlau, Friday, his attorney Benjamin Kelsen told that Fogarty sought treatment and has been clean since his arrest.
“I apologize for what I did,” Fogarty said as his father watched from the bench in the middle of the courtroom. “I love my students with all my heart … I was on a downward spiral of addiction.”
The judge told Fogarty that his words only explain his actions, but it’s not an excuse. “That’s a tremendous amount of narcotics in your possession, in your classroom, in your bag, right by your desk,” said Kazlau. His words cast doubt on whether Fogarty really had all the drugs for personal use, because someone using 100 bags a day the first time might very well be dead by now.
Kazlau also said that Fogarty’s attorney and the state deserved thanks because the charges against Fogarty could have been a lot more serious.
According to Kelsen, his client has come a long way since then. He also said that his client lost his teaching license and he now works in a hotel restaurant.
James Santulli, the Assistant Prosecutor, stated that Fogarty’s addiction not only affected his personal life, but it also had an impact on students, parents, and other teachers whom he facilitated with drugs.
Although no evidence was found that confirmed the sale or money, “but the text messages that were going on were of a flippant nature – fooling around, having a good time – and that is not the type of attitude we should have in our school system,” said Santulli.
Santulli, who was previously in narcotics about 25 years ago, has been working for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s office narcotics unit for a few years now. He said that a lot of death cases were reported back in the 80s and early 90s for cocaine which was terrible, but he has not seen anything like the heroin problem that we have now.
“We lose one or two people a month that were going to be prosecuted but they don’t make it to the prosecution. They get bailed out and they end up in Paterson with a needle in their arm and they die,” said Santulli.
The student who found the syringe in the school bathroom was commended by Kazlau as “bright and responsible.” The judge also blasted Fogarty for throwing away his education career. He went on saying to Fogarty, “Your father is sitting there ashamed and embarrassed. If you’re not going to do this for yourself, do it for your family. You’re causing tremendous pain to them. The last thing they want to do is go to your funeral.”
Fogarty was sentenced to 4 years of probation. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service and has to submit his DNA sample to the authorities.