By DAN MANGAN
A 13-year-old Staten Island honors student who was sexually assaulted at her high school had insult added to devastating emotional injuries when officials kept the classmate suspected of the attack in school – and later put the pair in the same summer class, the girl’s outraged mom told The Post.
If that weren’t bad enough, the charges against the student arrested for molesting freshman Kelsey Balzafiore were dropped after the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office inexplicably failed to inform a judge it was ready to try the case – despite being warned to do so by her lawyers.
“I feel like I was treated like I did something wrong,” the petite Kelsey, now 16, told The Post. “I feel like I was being punished. I don’t want this to happen to other girls. This whole experience since the attack has been an absolute nightmare.”
A Staten Island civil jury likely will soon hear of her shocking treatment by school officials and DA Daniel Donovan’s office after Robert Swen allegedly attacked her at New Dorp HS. Tomorrow, her lawyers will ask a judge to set a trial date for her negligence lawsuit against the city, the Department of Education and the NYPD’s school safety division.
“The system failed Kelsey. The insensitive way they treated her was truly, truly abominable,” said Justin Blitz, one of her lawyers.
Spokesmen for the city, Education Department and Staten Island DA declined to comment.
Swen adamantly denied the charges.
“I didn’t do anything. I’m not guilty . . . She’s just making it up,” he said.
Kelsey’s nightmare began Oct. 20, 2005, when she asked if anyone had a dollar so she could buy bottled water.
Then-16-year-old Swen said he had money and led her down the hallway, Kelsey’s lawyers said.
“Swen then grabbed her and dragged her down a stairwell to the basement, where he forcibly kissed her, opened her pants and groped her private parts,” said Bryan Swerling, another of Kelsey’s lawyers.
The girl’s mom, Loretta Rice, said that when she complained at school the next day, cops who were called arrested Swen on sex-abuse charges after having Kelsey point him out in front of other students.
Swen was suspended for a few days, said Rice, who claimed officials suggested Kelsey could leave through the back door to avoid him, or transfer.
Kelsey spent six weeks at home before transferring to Wagner HS. Months later, when she was attending summer school at Tottenville HS, Swen “walked into her class,” said Rice. Afterward, officials merely moved him out of her class, not the school.
Kelsey – who ended up receiving intensive psychological counseling – received another blow early in 2007, when the criminal case against Swen was dismissed because a Staten Island prosecutor failed to respond as “ready for trial” as required by law. Kelsey’s lawyers said they previously called the DA’s office 15 times and urged prosecutors assigned to the case to make such a response.