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Student refuses to testify against teacher-boyfriend

He pleads no contest to sex when she was 17.

By JOSE CARDENAS
Published May 17, 2007


He was 28, an assistant music instructor at Seminole High School. She was 17, a member of the marching band he helped coach.

Daniel Zdrodowski began a sexual relationship with the teen last year, prosecutors alleged.

Their romantic relationship continues today, according to court testimony. She is now 18, a senior who will graduate next week.

Facing 15 years in prison as his trial was about to start, Zdrodowski pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony charge of engaging in unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

Now 29, Zdrodowski faces a negotiated maximum sentence of no more than 5 1/2 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for June 14.

During a pretrial hearing Tuesday, the teen refused to testify against Zdrodowski.

"Please state your name," Assistant State Attorney Holly Grissinger asked three times.

In response, the teen tightened her lips and stared straight ahead.

"You are being ordered by me to answer the questions you are asked," Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley told the student.

She said nothing.

According to prosecutors, Zdrodowski had sex with the teen between January and March 2006. He was arrested on May 3, 2006.

He was placed on administrative leave the day after his arrest, school district spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said. He resigned July 12, 2006.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the band's drum major testified that he was dating the victim until she admitted her involvement with Zdrodowski.

As it appeared the trial would go forward, prosecutors asked Ley to jail the girl for criminal contempt of court until she agreed to testify.

"It just seems to me ... I should be practical with this," Ley responded. "Am I supposed to put that victim in jail? ... I'm going to decline that ... at this time."

Moss then told Ley that Zdrodowski would consider pleading.

"This is a young man with no prior record, a stellar history," Moss said.

Prosecutors agreed to the plea that includes allowing him to stay free pending sentencing.

Nat Kidder, the teen's attorney, said he believes she had a constitutional privacy right not to testify about her sexual activity because she was a minor.

Last year, the girl and Zdrowdowski agreed to put their relationship on hold until she turned 18 in December, Kidder said.

"These are people who were considering getting married," he said.