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Story - News

Mar 20, 2013 10:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Police Believe Teacher Recorded Students With Cellphone; Released After Posting $25,000 Bail

Mar 22, 2013 1:32 PM

UPDATE: Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.

Thomas Sheppard, who was arrested Wednesday morning at the Westhampton Beach School District administration office, was released from custody on Monday afternoon after posting $25,000 cash bail, according to Major Patrick Regan of the New York State Police.

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Major Regan said police believe that Mr. Sheppard used a cellphone to make a recording in the girls locker room at the middle school, but would not confirm how many girls were on the recording or how the video was discovered. He also confirmed that the current charge is based off of one incident and that at this time, there was only one known recording incident in the locker room.

“Evidence obtained revealed that Sheppard placed a video recording device in a female gym locker room in an apparent effort to record students in that environment,” Major Regan said. “These charges are based on one incident that we are aware of, but there may be further charges forthcoming as the investigation continues.”

During the press conference, which lasted approximately five minutes, he also said that orders of protection have been issued for an unspecified number of people, which bars Mr. Sheppard from contacting individuals associated with the investigation.

At the same time, Major Regan said that during the course of the investigation, supporters of Mr. Sheppard have been bullying young girls they perceive to be the victims in the case on multiple social media websites. If that continues, Major Regan said, those individuals are subject to arrest.

ORIGINAL STORY

A Westhampton Beach Middle School gym teacher pleaded not guilty on Wednesday afternoon to charges that he placed a video recording device in the girls’ locker room late last month.

Thomas Sheppard, 27, who lives in Speonk, was arrested by State Police on Wednesday morning and charged with second-degree unlawful surveillance, a felony, following a nearly two-week-long investigation. He was arraigned that afternoon in Westhampton Beach Justice Court.

If convicted, Mr. Sheppard faces up to 4 years in prison, according to the state’s penal code.

After Mr. Sheppard entered his not guilty plea, Westhampton Beach Village Justice Robert A. Kelly Jr. set bail at $25,000 cash or bond, and Mr. Sheppard was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside. It was not immediately clear if and when he would post bail.

Mr. Sheppard, who did not speak during his arraignment, will return to Village Justice Court at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 25.

His attorney, Rita Bonecelli of the Brill Legal Group in Hauppauge, declined to comment on the charges that her client is facing after the court proceedings. Mr. Sheppard’s parents, his fiancée and her mother were in the courtroom Wednesday for the arraignment and all declined to speak with a reporter.

During the proceedings, Assistant District Attorney Sheetal Shetty said Mr. Sheppard recorded young women in the girls’ locker room, but did not 
specify what type of device was used by him or when the incident allegedly took place. The number of potential victims is also unclear.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Sheppard has been suspended indefinitely with pay from his tenured teaching position with the Westhampton Beach School District, according to a statement issued earlier that day by Schools Superintendent Michael Radday. When asked by the judge, Ms. Bonecelli stated that Mr. Sheppard makes about $80,000 per year.

“The district has been informed by the New York State Police of the arrest of a Middle School Teacher,” Mr. Radday wrote. “The individual has been suspended until further notice pending the outcome of the legal process.

“Since this is a personnel matter and an active investigation, the district is legally constrained from sharing any additional details at this time,” he continued. “Please be assured that the safety and well-being of students is our top priority, and the district will continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials during their investigation.”

State Police have said that their investigation, which began on March 6, revealed that Mr. Sheppard, a four-year employee of the school district, placed a video recording device in the girls’ locker room at the middle school. It was not immediately clear when the incident took place, though school district officials asked the Westhampton Beach Village Police to investigate the incident on February 26. The investigation, however, was turned over to State Police after the village’s lead investigator, Detective Ed Hamor, was involved in a car accident.

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Let's see....2 administrators and now a gym teacher in the same week!? What the hell is going on with these imbeciles...are they so arrogant that they think they will not get caught? Arrogant and stupid...a lethal combination!
By nauti lady (25), Sag Harbor on Mar 20, 13 11:16 AM
This breaks my heart. This man was my sons coach. It goes to show that you can't trust anyone. I hope that it is all a misunderstanding and that his phone really was stolen.
By SS&BMOMMY (5), East Quogue on Mar 20, 13 11:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Let's wait to find out if it's true before deciding that this guy is scum, please. I don't know him from a hole in the wall, honestly, and if it's true it's an awful thing to have done, but what if it's not true? We need to (hopefully) let the justice system will get to the bottom of this. Could you imagine if your phone was stolen and this happened, how your life would be ruined? Again, he could very well be guilty - I don't know - but neither do you...
By getalife (60), Southampton on Mar 20, 13 11:46 AM
Stolen Phone- please. So many rushed to defend this guy and now some are trying to blane it on a stolen phone. Give the State Police more credit then that and be glad its in their hands. They will get to the bottom of this.
By realistic (470), westhampton on Mar 20, 13 12:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am not saying that he is innocent, but the reason that so many people are trying to defend him is because anybody that ACTUALLY knew him, knew that he would never do something like this. But I do not know any more information than the rumors that are going around. Anything can happen, we just have to wait.
By anonymous14 (1), Westhampton on Mar 20, 13 12:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry, you NEVER know what someone else does behind closed doors. He could be innocent, he could not be innocent, but you just never ever know.
By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 20, 13 7:49 PM
Nice one. The administration is doing a great job screening some of these candidates.
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Mar 20, 13 12:03 PM
Yeah, if only they asked him during his interview if he would ever sneak a camera phone inside of a locker room to record underage girls, he would of told the truth and never got hired.... Those irresponsible administrators!
By sharktopus (4), whb on Mar 20, 13 10:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Those that say "he would never do something like this, he's a great guy, blah blah blah..." did you ever notice people say things like this ALL the time about people that actually turn out to be GUILTY?! Just because it's hard to believe doesn't mean this guy didn't have a secret corner in his life no one knew about~
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Mar 20, 13 12:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
A man is innocent until proven guilty last time I checked, He very well could be guilty.... but even if he' is innocent his life is already destroyed. There is more to this story yet to come.
By Boardwatcher (7), westhamptom on Mar 20, 13 1:03 PM
this is so terrible, he was framed... the girl that took his cell phone and did the pictures is a liar... it will come out in court... there are witness to attest to her lieing... and others that will come forward in his difense... you are ruining this mans life. god help you finger pointers.
By NoelCiolino (2), Lindenhurst, New York on Mar 20, 13 1:22 PM
3 members liked this comment
If only you had such conviction for grammar and spelling.

Maybe he was framed, maybe he wasn't. These things rarely end well.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Mar 20, 13 2:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
seems likely that someone wants to frame a middle school gym teacher... come on
By labrams (6), Southampton on Mar 20, 13 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where does it say that his phone was stolen and he was framed? do you know this girl that took the phone personally? If so perhaps you'd better talk to the police about what you know. If you have facts, you should be sharing them.

By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 20, 13 7:52 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By AFB (31), NYC/SH on Mar 21, 13 1:45 PM
None of us as parents want to believe that a teacher, a coach, a priest, any trusted adult would be capable of doing something like this, but it happens, and it's allegedly happened here in WHB.

Instead of blaming the alleged victim(s) here, let's take a breath and commend these girls for being brave enough to come forward, for doing the right thing, and for hopefully, just maybe, saving your daughters and my daughters from turning up on someone's video tape.
By Eliza (29), Westhampton Beach on Mar 20, 13 2:22 PM
Sometimes victims turn out to be suspects. Let's not assume anything until you know FACTS.
By Dani777 (2), Shirley on Mar 27, 13 11:09 PM
I can't wait for whb administration to get sued. I'm ashamed to go to this school. Sheppard is the man and has a bigger heart than all the middle school teachers combined
By jttf3318 (2), East Quogue on Mar 20, 13 2:28 PM
May be you can explain why the administration will get sued for doing the right thing and bringing an alleged incident to the attention of the authorities. They did the right thing and should be commended for it.
By realistic (470), westhampton on Mar 21, 13 8:31 AM
2 members liked this comment
You're assuming they did the right thing. They have a responsibility to ensure a teacher is given due process and provide a thorough investigation before handing it over. Whether that was done sufficiently is yet to be seen.
By treehugger (10), whb on Mar 23, 13 6:57 PM
who hired that guy? look at him.... pathetic
By labrams (6), Southampton on Mar 20, 13 2:30 PM
pathetic....that's an ignorant statement.
By Danm (4), East Moriches on Mar 20, 13 2:53 PM
what is that statement supposed to mean?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 20, 13 3:47 PM
Ive known tom my whole life and i know for a fact he would never ever do anything to possibly jeopardize himself or family or his job. Think about what a teacher has to go threw to get a job nowadays. middle school girls are cruel and would do anyhting to get back at their teachers. Also gym teachers have to be careful around little immature girls and i think he will be proven not guilty and these girls will be getting in alot of trouble.
By JonathanMichAel (1), Long Island City, New York on Mar 20, 13 2:42 PM
I think your claims here are pretty offensive. Look, I'm all for "innocent until proven guilty." That's fine. But your stance seems to be "innocent because.. well, I know him." With the limited information released so far, it's impossible to truly know what happened. Not yet, at least. And great, support your friend in need. If you honestly believe that he didn't do it, let him know, have his back. But what you shouldn't do is publicly condemn a group of teenage (and maybe even pre-teen) girls for ...more
By sharktopus (4), whb on Mar 21, 13 12:30 AM
This man is ruined - guilty or not - and you have condemned him, despite not knowing the facts just what the media wants you to know. There is a group in the school known for their meaness. One would hope they wouldn't do this, but if they did, what will happen to them?
By Rhoda D (12), Quogue on Mar 21, 13 9:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
Look, I agree with you Rhonda. Condemnation isn't healthy on either side here until more of the facts come out. But remember, charges were pressed against Sheppard, not the accusers. And these charges weren't entirely baseless. It was after a several week investigation where evidence was collected. People have the right to be both questioning and concerned, especially if they have children who attend WHBMS. But the claim against the accusers are entirely baseless and just irresponsible. There was ...more
By sharktopus (4), whb on Mar 21, 13 11:05 AM
I'm not condemninganyone, not the teacher or the victims. I was just pointing out that IF they had done it, nothing would happen to them, but he is ruined in any case.

I'm not familiar with cell phone videos. How long do they run? They must be programmable as no one has said he was in the locker room at the time.
By Rhoda D (12), Quogue on Mar 21, 13 4:32 PM
Fast forward to October 23, 2013...Eat your words Jonathan! "..for a fact..."...guess you don't know him as well as you think you did!You're one of the first ones that should be apologizing to the victims. Those 'immature' girls saved potential future victims from his sickness.
By news2me (7), East Quogue on Oct 24, 13 2:59 PM
While there is not a better scenario of the 2, we want to hope this young man did not throw his entire life and career away doing something so unintelligent; we also want to hope that a possible young, cruel middle school girl(s) did not do this as possible retaliation for him failing her or something of that nature. Either way, there is no good outcome, and you should really not be so quick to judge this man until you know for a fact he is guilty.

WHB is a phenominal school district and ...more
By mc0427 (9), Westhampton Beach on Mar 20, 13 2:57 PM
Just remember Towana Brawley, don't rush to judgement of this teacher.
By LI native (127), east moriches on Mar 20, 13 4:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
"Major Regan said police believe that Mr. Sheppard used a cell phone to make a recording...."

Wouldn't want any facts to get in the way of what the police believe.
By loading... (588), quiogue on Mar 20, 13 5:23 PM
Imagine how many grocery store tabloids will go unread with all of this juice flowing from local journalism and the diverse cast of characters from our trusted public servants.
By kahuna (69), Tampa on Mar 20, 13 6:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
why are all of these comments with no names and no faces... am i the only one not to be hiding... i believe in him and believe he is innocent...innocent until proven guilty... it seems everyone is saying guilty... until proven innocent?
By NoelCiolino (2), Lindenhurst, New York on Mar 20, 13 8:20 PM
What difference does it make if someone has a photo? Some people like their photo taken and others don't. I am not sure what that has to do with the innocence or guilt of this man.

It is clear that you know him and it is nice that you believe in him. Something happened here...only time will tell what the real story is.
By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 20, 13 8:28 PM
having a face making the deplorable comments would be helpful...guess it's safer to hide in the basement with negative comments and not have to come out to be seen...
By LI native (127), east moriches on Mar 20, 13 8:36 PM
Is that why you don't have "a face"? LOL

I don't understand why one would now be 'judging' the posters instead of discussing the story.
By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 21, 13 7:54 AM
1 member liked this comment
A 27yr old middle school gym teacher makes $80,000/yr?
By Asdfjkl (1), Remsenburg on Mar 20, 13 8:47 PM
5 members liked this comment
lol yes I wasn't going to comment on it. I understand he is a football coach?
By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 20, 13 9:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have discussed this story, and how about you do the same instead of condemning others for trying to make this an actual discussion.
By just breath (82), yuck on Mar 22, 13 1:43 PM
What does his salary have to do with this? If you think teaching is easy and he doesn't deserve this salary, then go be a teacher. You can make 80,000 after 7 years of school, be responsible for 200 kids a day and just " be a gym teacher". Let's make educated comments. That salary includes coaching.
By Dani777 (2), Shirley on Mar 27, 13 11:16 PM
This man is highly respected among the school's faculty, student, and parents. He is a kind hearted, hardworking, humble person who shows everyone he knows and works with a tremendous amount of respect. And in return, everyone affords him the same. There is a reason everyone loves the man.

Also, for years he has been in a relationship with a coworker that everyone likes and agrees is highly attractive. This fact, coupled with his perceived character, makes this whole thing seem very fishy.

Innocent ...more
By canes11 (2), westhampton beach on Mar 20, 13 9:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
Right, NO ONE knows what happened. That includes those saying it could not have happened. Just because you know someone, doesn't mean you know everything about them.

Given the fact that the man is so highly respected it would seem that the school would have made sure there was plenty of subsistence to the claims being made. They surely wouldn't have rushed in without a valid reason.

I have no idea what the truth is, nor does anyone else here on these boards. Let's pray that ...more
By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 21, 13 7:52 AM
3 members liked this comment
Alright friends, let's step back for a second. Yes, it's dangerous to make assumptions on either side of the fence here. Remember, these accusations aren't baseless, but unless you have solid evidence, it's difficult to be sure of everything (also remember that all of the info wasn't released yet.) What is more troubling, though, is trying to prove innocence based on character. Look, I am comfortable saying that he is innocent until proven guilty. That's fine. But to prop this up like some weird ...more
By sharktopus (4), whb on Mar 20, 13 10:33 PM
2 members liked this comment
The U.S. Supreme Court, just like the commenters here, has struggled with how to address evidence of good character. In an 1896 case the Supreme Court stated that evidence of good character could, standing alone, constitute reasonable doubt. Edgington v. United States, 164 U.S. 361, 366 (1896).

Since that time some Federal Circuit Courts have disregarded the Edgington case and have, instead, said evidence of good character could tip the balance in a close case, but does not stand alone ...more
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Mar 21, 13 8:44 AM
3 members liked this comment
Parents, make sure your kids know that it is not OK to bully alleged victims, regardless of eventual outcome. I am very pleased to hear the police assert that those bullying young girls they perceive to be the victims in the case on multiple social media websites will be subject to arrest.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Mar 21, 13 11:12 AM
Most of the people on this board, as with most people in society at large, fail to appreciate the enormous role that police and prosecutorial discretion plays in the criminal justice system. The decision to arrest Tom Sheppard at the WHBMS administrative offices, with television and print reporters in tow, the decision to hold a press conference, the choice of words utilized by the state trooper, all hint at political and/or ulterior motives on the part of law enforcement. None of those things needed ...more
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Mar 21, 13 12:09 PM
I wondered how the media knew to be in WHB to televise his arrest from the administration building. How did channel 7 report that a custodian found the cell phone, when everyone else said it was a recording device?
By Rhoda D (12), Quogue on Mar 21, 13 4:42 PM
Almost certainly leaks within law enforcement. Combined with that spectacle of an arrest at WHBMS smacks of attention seeking on the part of the state police. The investigation has been ongoing for over three weeks, he had retained an attorney, and he wasn't going anywhere. There was no need for that. There is no justice when we live in a world where the police have unchecked discretion like that.
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Mar 21, 13 6:35 PM
Since this story was circulating like wildfire with all sorts of stories from students as well as adults, I am sure that the school wanted to make sure the community knew that it was being addressed.

I'd image the school has been receiving large amounts of inquiries regarding this. Parents are concerned and want to know what is happening.

whether the arrest is premature or not we shall not know for awhile. One way or the other, its a terrible story.
By bb (910), Hampton Bays on Mar 22, 13 9:17 AM
The school released a simple press statement. They don't have any control over how law enforcement conducts their investigation, and certainly don't have any control over the timing of the arrest. What school would want a teacher arrested on school property with the media in tow? That's ridiculous.
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Mar 22, 13 10:52 AM
Last year their football coach was arrested for selling drugs, and now this. What is this school coming to. SMH
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Mar 21, 13 2:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
100% not true. What are you even saying man. No WHB football coach was arrested for selling drugs. No WHB football coach was even arrested for anything. You are either misinformed, or you just like to make things up.
By canes11 (2), westhampton beach on Mar 22, 13 2:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
didnt that football coach work closely with the cop who was addicted to drugs? I think he was in code enforcement. Arent they all part of the republican party?
By my2cents (2), EQ on Mar 21, 13 5:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sam is right. It was posted in this paper. He was a SH code enforcement officer who also coached young boys football for WHB. Check the archives.
By gloverdt (17), westhampton beach on Mar 22, 13 8:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
No, he's not. Sam's statement is 100% untrue. Al Tumberello was not a WHB football coach. He was not a WHB school district employee and did not coach one of the school football teams. He may have been a volunteer coach for the PAL, but that has no affiliation with the WHB school district. He certainly isn't "their football coach." That's nonsense.
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Mar 22, 13 11:00 AM
The article posted April 19th, 2012
By gloverdt (17), westhampton beach on Mar 22, 13 8:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
Well I was trying to avoid using Al's name for his sake, but thank you for mentioning it. Its interesting tho that Al used to coach his son's Jr WHB green team on the WHB football field - but whatever you say sir. My original point I was trying to make was that the so-called leaders in WHB are going to pot.
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Mar 22, 13 2:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
How old is his son? PAL makes use of public school facilities, as is done in practically every school district and every sport on Long Island. PAL is not the WHB school district, and a volunteer coaching his son is not a WHB school district football coach. For some reason, you're attempting to actively mislead people on this board and criticize school leadership for the actions of someone they have no control over. What's your end game sir?
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Mar 22, 13 2:37 PM
No one is who they appear to be
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Mar 22, 13 2:30 PM
Who cares about Al. He ran away to Florida because he ruined his reputation here. You cant trust anyone with your kids. Not your football coach, not your gym teacher. Heck sometimes you cant even trust your own relatives.
By subscriber (6), moriches on Mar 22, 13 3:35 PM
It's amazing how people are condemning this teacher BEFORE the police have even done their FULL investigation.
HE brought the phone to administration's attention when HE FOUND stuff on it. The school HAD to bring this to proper authorities doing what was in the best interest of the students, the police having ONE phone with what they believe is this teacher's doing is why he was arrested. REMEMBER TO NEVER HAVE YOUR PHONE STOLEN, THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU.
Let's just hope that the one's responsible ...more
By LI native (127), east moriches on Mar 23, 13 7:22 AM
2 members liked this comment
So if there is no intent, then there is no crime.
By treehugger (10), whb on Mar 23, 13 6:52 PM
Thats EXACTLY the defense I would use if it were me. "Hey, my phone was stolen. It wasnt me!" I dont even need to pay a lawyer to make that one up for me. Its genius!
By subscriber (6), moriches on Mar 23, 13 8:54 AM
2 members liked this comment
Well next time you get into trouble and the police need to follow the book and arrest you, let the people convict you on this site and see how it feels. GENIUS!
By just breath (82), yuck on Mar 23, 13 3:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is a very bizarre story. I would love to know how this guy got his phone stolen. How it ended up in the girls locker room, and was video taping. It sounds fishy to me that he would jeopardize his future, and job. I think the story lacks a lot of public facts for people to rush to judgment. I hope he is innocent, because I'm really losing faith in teachers, and cops. Not a week goes by where there isn't a cop or teacher accused of wrong doing.
By chief1 (2786), southampton on Mar 24, 13 9:40 AM
1 member liked this comment
Is it me but do you notice that bloggers like Nature, PBR, Turkey Bridge and a few others don't comment on these types of situations? Things that truly are revolting at a root level of humanity they simply don't like to comment on.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Mar 24, 13 10:40 AM
BIGjimbo, see my response to whatapity under "Bay Shore Man Arrested On Sex Abuse Charges In Quogue," 27east 3/12.
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Mar 24, 13 11:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
There are too many unresolved factual issues for this story to be worthy of comment at this time.

Lacking real facts, "truly revolting" is mostly in the mind of the reader IMO.

Suit yourself BIGjimbo -- freedom of speech includes the freedom NOT to speak, especially in the middle of what seems simply to be a petty mass hysteria.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Mar 24, 13 6:18 PM
2 members liked this comment
information: to get to the equipment room in the middle school, you have to go through the girls locker room.
By LI native (127), east moriches on Mar 24, 13 9:59 PM
Anyone remember a movie from the 80's called "The Crush"?

It could be that a spurned young woman is the culprit, but who can really say for sure until all the stories are squared.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Mar 27, 13 8:02 PM
I am trying to figure out what's more inappropriate -- the fact that this school district decided to name its football field after a coach who committed suicide, or the way this amateur videographer showed up dressed for court.
By realdeal (23), Southampton on Mar 28, 13 12:29 PM
3 members liked this comment
You mean the way he was dressed for work as a gym teacher when the police showed up at WHBMS and dragged him off in front of a cadre of reporters who were present only because the police told them to be?

The investigation had been ongoing for weeks and everybody knew it. Sheppard wasn't going anywhere, and the police could have easily arrested him at home or asked him to surrender himself through counsel. Seriously dude, get a clue. The actions, words, and general conduct of the state ...more
By ex-pat (49), East Quogue on Mar 28, 13 2:36 PM
3 members liked this comment
Man's reputation??? Are you serious??? They have evidence. They paraded him out of the School because he deserved to be dragged out in shame. He is going to make a deal with the DA soon because ha has no chance. By the way, He has not once publically denied it!!!!! Why?? Because he did it! He's still trying to blame kids for a setup that never happened. He's a stupid sick man and he needs help. He may get some from his cellmate. I don't want to see that video for sure.
By SampsonSimpson (6), on Apr 6, 13 11:23 AM
2 members liked this comment
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