Dean Bethea is seen in the hallway at Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday. Bethea, a former Columbia Prep teacher, is on trial for attempting to ply a student with alcohol and kiss her at the Met.
The Columbia Secondary School teacher accused of plying a 16-year-old former student with booze and trying to kiss her testified Wednesday that the girl tried to set him up.
Dean Bethea, 56, took the witness stand to explain that his meetup with the teen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in December 2015 was her idea and that he had no ill intentions.
He said he knew she had “a schoolgirl crush on me” from what her older sister said, but she asked him to come to the museum with her and a group of friends to give them a tour of the exhibits.
Bethea said the alleged victim, now 17, did not actually invite other students and asked if he thought she was “as attractive” as her 21- or 22-year-old sister, who he’d dated “on and off for two years.”
“I was caught off guard and concerned,” Bethea said.
“You’re one of my favorite people and favorite students,” Bethea testified about what he told her. “I think the world of you.”
“(Your sister) is an adult and you’re a child,” he said, according to his testimony. “We’re not going to have this conversation.”
Bethea testified about the conversation on direct examination by his attorney, Matthew Myers.
The teen told a very different version of the events when she testified on Tuesday. She said Bethea invited her to the museum and encouraged her to drink when they went to the Great Hall Balcony Bar, making her uncomfortable.
He also got too close when the teen sat at the famous sculpture of a girl and a dove, she said.
He walked her to her subway station afterward and asked her if he could kiss her, but she said no, according to her testimony.
Bethea insisted it was the girl who asked for a kiss and that he rejected her but was willing to give her a hug.
He also said all beers he ordered, including two at once at one point, were for him and that he did not provide any to the clearly underage high school student.
On cross-examination, Bethea was hammered by prosecutor Pierre Griffith about his actions and his willingness to see the girl off school grounds, even though it was against Department of Education policy.
Bethea continued to deny doing anything wrong and insisted he drank all seven of the beers that were ordered that day over a roughly two-hour period.
“Would you agree that a teacher making romantic advances on a 16-year-old student would be a damaging event?” Griffith asked the career educator, who held two college professor jobs prior to moving to New York City to teach at a specialized public high school.
“It would be creepy, disgusting and damaging,” Bethea said.
Bethea was booted from his job at Western Oregon University in 2002 for punching the 19-year-old ex-boyfriend of a student he was dating. He then got hired at Centenary College in New Jersey before taking a job in the city’s public school system.
Summations are expected Thursday in the misdemeanor trial in Manhattan Criminal Court before Judge Ann Scherzer.
Bethea faces a single count of endangering the welfare of a child.