'Allegations that shock the conscience': Hilton principal pleads not guilty to sex abuse charges | WHEC.com

'Allegations that shock the conscience': Hilton principal pleads not guilty to sex abuse charges

Charles Molineaux
Updated: April 28, 2021 05:25 PM
Created: April 28, 2021 07:28 AM

GREECE, N.Y. (WHEC) — Northwood Elementary School principal Kirk Ashton Thursday pleaded not guilty to several sex abuse charges during a virtual arrangement in Monroe County Court.

Ashton faces more than 25 counts of various sex abuse charges including seven counts of a second-degree pattern of sexual conduct with children, and seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies. He's also charged with 11 counts of misdemeanor endangering children.

Ashton appeared virtually from the Niagara County Jail in front of Monroe County Judge Karen Bailey Turner. She reduced his bail to $250,000 after an appeal by his lawyer to give Ashton a chance to make bail, but she underscored the allegations.

"These charges are significant. If true, they shock the conscience," Turner said.

Prosecutors also touched on the gravity of this alleged betrayal.

"Since these all occurred on school grounds, mostly during school hours, that this reflects the history, the character, the bold and blatant acts that were committed," Sara VanStrydonck said.

As principal of Northwood elementary school in Hilton, where’s he’s now on administrative leave, he's accused of sexually abusing 11 boys between the ages of 8 and 12, between 2017 and this year's spring break.

He was also ordered to have no contact with the victims, in person, on the phone, by email or on social media.

“Is there anything unclear on what it means to stay away from these individuals?” Turner asked.

“No. I’m clear," Ashton said.

Ashton's lawyer, Robert King, said the bail reduction will help in Ashton's defense.

“He’s housed in Niagara County," King said. "Very difficult for me. There hasn’t been any discovery provided at this point, but when the time comes, it’s going to be hard for me to work with him about an hour and a half away."

Ashton has been on administrative leave since April 8.

District Attorney Sandra Doorley previously told News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke more charges are likely.

"There are 11 victims represented [in the indictment], but I can tell you and I can tell the community that this is not the end of this investigation," Doorley said. "Bivona, my office, we've met with additional children and we anticipate that another indictment may be forthcoming."

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call the New York State Police at 585-398-4100.

The lawyers are scheduled to be back in court for a hearing to argue their motions on July 15. No trial date has been set yet.

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