FARMINGVILLE - A special-education teacher and volunteer firefighter was arrested after being accused of forcibly touching a minor over the weekend.
Police say Justin Russo touched the minor at his Farmingville firehouse during a haunted house event. The firehouse is opened to children of all ages on the weekends during the Halloween season.
Russo pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his attorney George Dazzo says his client is innocent.
"It's our understanding it's not the first time this particular young woman has made false allegations against members of the community," Dazzo says.
Dazzo says Russo teaches fourth-grade special education in the Sachem School District. He says his client was a junior firefighter starting at age 7 and a firefighter since age 18.
Dazzo says Russo is "shocked by the allegations" and is anxious to defend himself. Russo has voluntarily taken a leave from the fire department. He has also taken a leave from his teaching job with pay.
Additionally, Dazzo says Russo has agreed to take a polygraph test.
Suffolk County police also accused Russo of forcibly touching another woman -- this one a 28-year-old -- in July of last year.
Russo's lawyer dismisses those accusations.
"Detectives investigated and even viewed video surveillance recordings of the young woman entering and exiting the men's room," Dazzo says. "And after speaking with the young woman, she declined to press charges. And that was the end of the alleged incident."