Former school officer takes stand in own defense during sex abuse case

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PITTSBURGH - Former Pittsburgh Public Schools police officer Robert Lellock took the witness stand Thursday and repeatedly denied accusations that he sexually assaulted four male students at a North Side school more than a decade ago.

“Absolutely not,” Lellock said in response to questions from Assistant District Attorney Patrick Schulte. “I didn't molest no one, sir.”

Four men in their late 20s told jurors this week that Lellock pulled them from class at Arthur J. Rooney Middle School in Brighton Heights, took them into a janitor's closet and fondled them during the 1998-1999 school year.

The trial before Common Pleas President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel began on Tuesday and wrapped up Thursday afternoon.

Defense attorney Timothy J. Kidd rested his case shortly before noon, closing arguments took place begin Thursday afternoon and the jury will start deliberations on Monday.

Judge McDaniel ordered the jury to avoid discussing the case with anyone and to avoid forming an opinion until instructed to do so by the court on Monday.

Lellock, 44, is charged with crimes including indecent assault, corruption of minors, false imprisonment, official oppression and making terroristic threats.

Police began investigating in July 2012 when a former student reported that Lellock sexually assaulted him several times inside the janitor's closet in the late 1990s.

Lellock, wearing a suit and tie, told jurors that he would frequently talk to students in the hallways, library and cafeteria in an attempt to gain information about illegal activity, including drugs. He said he came into contact with 600,000 students during his career. He said teachers gave him permission to take students out of class.

“Of the 600,000 students you came across in your career, how many did you molest in a closet?” Schulte asked on cross-examination.

“None, sir,” Lellock said.

“How many did you molest in your patrol car?”

“None, sir.”

“How many did you molest in the A/V room?”

“I molested none, sir.”

Ronald Zangaro, the former principal of the school, told jurors on Wednesday that he heard voices inside the closet on May 28, 1999, and walked in to find Lellock with another student, now deceased.

When Zangaro asked what they were doing, the student said they were “just wrestling.” Lellock told him they were getting ready to wrestle.

Zangaro said he notified Lellock's supervisor, and the district opened an investigation.

Pittsburgh police Detective Tamara Hawthorne said her department wasn't notified until seven weeks later and the victim refused to be interviewed, so the investigation went stale.

The Pittsburgh Board of Education ultimately suspended Lellock for 20 days.

After the 1999 school year, Lellock's supervisors assigned him to patrol the Oakland, Downtown and Hill District zones. He was Superintendent Mark Roosevelt's driver from 2005 through December 2010.

Police charged Lellock after the statute of limitations had expired because state law later extended the time limit for child abuse and because Lellock was a public employee.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.