Former dance instructor admits to sex crimes

NORWICH – Former longtime Perkins School of the Arts dance instructor entered three guilty pleas to sex crimes Monday.

28-year-old Travis St. Denny, known locally, regionally, and nationally for his dance and choreography career will be sentenced for the crimes he admitted guilt to, in September.

St. Denny appeared in Chenango County Court before Judge James E. Downey with his attorney Benjamin Bergman. District Attorney Joseph A. McBride represented the people.

The dancer was originally arrested in March of this year and charged with promoting an obscene sexual performance of a child and endangering the welfare of a child. He was later indicted on seven counts of criminal sexual act, alleging sexual contact with a minor on multiple occasions.

Upon St. Denny’s initial arrest, Downey set bail at $20k, which was posted that day, and the defendant has been out on bail, voluntarily arriving at each court appearance. Downey informed the man that if he were to not appear, a warrant would be signed for his arrest.

An agreed upon disposition – or plea deal – was placed on the record Monday, July 10, when St. Denny admitted guilt to two of the seven counts of criminal sexual act. An additional charge of promoting an obscene performance of a child that was brought about Monday.

Downey explained to St. Denny the additional charge of promoting an obscene sexual performance of a child and said that his intent to waive his right to a grand jury proceeding on the charge essentially removes the ‘buffer between the police and prosecution’ and that, ‘signing the waiver of indictment is the equivalent to a grand jury opting to indict.’

St. Denny said he understood and had no questions on that matter.

The new charge brought about accused St. Denny of promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child – a video – in July 2015, where St. Denny was said to have directed a child to perform certain acts on a recording.

McBride said that St. Denny’s guilty pleas to the agreed upon counts would satisfy all the counts lodged against him. The DA further said that the US Attorney’s Office could bring charges and prosecute, but at this time have declined to do so.

When St. Denny was asked to stand with the intent to change his plea from not guilty to guilty, the judge asked him questions specific to the charges in order to determine if his admission was accurate.

Downey read the top count of the sealed indictment against St. Denny.

“It is alleged that during the month of May in 2010, at the Perkins School of the Arts, you did knowingly and unlawfully engage in [details omitted to protect the victim] …” said Downey.

Downey asked the 28-year-old if he remembered May 2010, and asked if he became acquainted with a younger person. “Yes, sir,” said St. Denny.

St. Denny then addressed the court and said that he did commit the act but that it did not occur at the location stated by Downey, but he said, “It occurred in my vehicle. I don’t know exactly. Somewhere in the City of Norwich. I don’t recall.”

St. Denny further said that during that time he was, “Transitioning from a [dance] student to a [dance] instructor,” at the studio.

He entered a plea of guilty to the sexual contact, and said that he was 21 at the time. The victim was younger than 15, per both the indictment and St. Denny’s admission.

As to the second count, Downey asked St. Denny if he remembered a second time in May 2010 when St. Denny had sexual contact with a minor at the specific address written in the indictment.

“Yes, I do,” said St. Denny. “It was in my vehicle. In the City of Norwich. I am not familiar with the road you’re talking about, your Honor.” Downey geographically explained the location in question using landmarks. “No, that’s not where it happened,” said St. Denny. “I do not recall.”

McBride then addressed the St. Denny and asked, “Do you remember being parked in an area off [road in Town of Norwich]?” St. Denny said no. “You admit to this second count happening in the City of Norwich?” St. Denny said, “I do not recall exactly.”

Downey then asked for allocution regarding the charge that accused St. Denny of having involvement in the direction of an obscene video.

“What can you tell me about that?” Downey asked.

“I requested a nude video and I received it,” said St. Denny.

McBride interjected, “We can’t take this plea. He’s not admitting to the crime.”

Downey asked St. Denny to state for the record more specifically what he requested the victim to do. Explicit details surrounding the content of the video were then placed on the record.

McBride then asked the court for consent to change the locations of the incidents that were in the sealed indictment.

Downey said, “The top count says Perkins School of the Arts, he [the defendant] is saying it didn’t happen there.”

McBride asked that the indictment be changed to read, “In the City of Norwich.”

St. Denny entered guilty pleas to the three charges, and they were accepted by the court.

Downey ordered a pre-sentence report and ordered that St. Denny not leave the county without court permission.

Orders of protection were said to be issued for the no-contact and contact victims. It was said that orders of protection would be issued for,”One touched complainant and six non-touched complainants.”

McBride said that if St. Denny were to violate the terms and conditions set forth prior to sentencing, the deal would essentially be off and he would be facing seven years for each felony and 2 1/3-7 for the promoting an obscene sexual performance charge.

Downey said if St. Denny fails to appear at sentencing, his bail would be lost, he would be sentenced without being present, and a warrant would be signed for his arrest.

Even though the appearance was for a plea based on an agreed upon disposition, McBride entered his affidavit of service (readiness for trial) to the court for the record.

In return for his pleas of guilty, St. Denny agreed to serve five years in state prison for one count of criminal sexual act in the second degree, five years in state prison for the second count of criminal sexual act, and 1-3 years for promoting an obscene sexual performance.

Downey told St. Denny that he is permitted to acquire character reference letters to submit prior to sentencing.

According to McBride, victims will be making statements at sentencing.

The judge said he will take into account the character references from St. Denny, the pre-sentence report, and the victim statements and make a final prison term determination.

“Basically the matter will end on the day of sentencing,” said Downey. “This disposition you’ve agreed to states two 5-year sentences to run back to back for a total of ten, and then 1-3 years that will run at the same time as the ten. Post-release supervision time will be determined at sentencing. I will listen to the character references and if I see anything to convince me that ten years is too severe I will take that into consideration. Likewise, I’ll listen to the DA and the victims. I will weigh what you present and what they present. Then, I will make a decision to stick with the ten or go with something less. Regardless, it will not be less than seven years. It’s an uphill climb for you.”

St. Denny is to submit DNA, pay the $50 DNA fee, and Downey imposed $395 in surcharges due at sentencing. He will also be executing a waiver of appeal.

St. Denny is to be sentenced on September 11, 2017 at 10 a.m.

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