Dozens of glowing letters do not sway judge in sentencing Mell to two years’ probation

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Tod Mell stands behind his attorney, Kevin J. Luibrand, as Luibrand talks with Guilderland Town Justice John Bailey about documents related to Mell’s sentencing.

GUILDERLAND — Despite a cache of letters pleading for leniency for Tod Mell, Judge John Bailey stuck to the agreed-upon sentence for the former Lynwood Elementary School teacher and math specialist — two years’ probation for endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Mell had been charged with the misdemeanor after he “engaged in unlawful physical contact with a female student,” according to a release from Guilderland Police. He struck a plea deal, pleading guilty in October, at the same time the arrest was announced, and was sentenced on Jan. 17.

Neither the Guilderland police nor the court system would release any information about what the victim in the case, a student in Mell’s fifth-grade class, said happened to her during the 2010-11 school year, when she was about 10.

She went to police eight years later with her complaint, a time span that experts say is typical for children who have been abused.

Bailey declined to read the victim’s impact statement aloud in court, saying, “If the victim’s not here, I’m not going to read it, because legally I don’t think that I can.” He looked around, but no one came forward.

This week, after The Enterprise requested even a redacted copy of the victim’s statement — to protect her identity — Bailey told The Enterprise that he could not discuss the specifics of any case but said he would not release the victim’s statement. He said that, in general, “When a case of sexual assault appears in our court, we are required to not disclose the identity of the victim.”

In court, Bailey said that he had received “numerous letters,” but that he was “not going to vary from a plea agreement worked out by very competent lawyers.” The sentence, Bailey said in court, was “hammered out over a long period of time by counsel.”

The letters

Bailey received over 30 letters, which The Enterprise reviewed, in support of Tod Mell from former students and their parents, colleagues in the Guilderland School District, and Mell’s own immediate family members, all describing him as a remarkably skilled and passionate teacher, and asking for leniency.

Two of them were from current school board members. Long-time member Judy Slack, who also worked as a teaching assistant at Lynnwood for two decades, wrote that she hoped the judge would allow Mell to avoid probation “and perhaps not give up his license so that he can resume making significant contributions to our community.”

Another school board member, Tim Horan, who is a retired elementary-school teacher who taught for 30 years, mostly at Pine Bush Elementary, wrote that Mell is “the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice due in part to a rising tide of #Me too McCarthyism that has swept across the country.” Horan also wrote, “Whether it was Tawana Brawley or the Duke lacrosse team, there are many examples of false accusations by women toward men. I believe Mr. Mell has been the victim of a similar travesty of justice.”

Kimberly Marini wrote that she successfully requested to have Mell as the fifth-grade teacher of each of her two daughters, in 2003-04 and 2006-07. “My daughters never felt any doubts or indications of any inappropriateness,” she wrote.

Kara Carman, who had Mell as a fifth-grade teacher and graduated from Guilderland High School in 2013, wrote about Million Dollar Project, in which students received one million fake dollars and had to come up with a detailed business plan for what to do with it. Carman spent weeks planning to open an indoor soccer facility, “the inventory I would need for the snack bar, how I would sign up teams and leagues, all of it, down to the cent.” She continued, “And I was PROUD — it felt so real, and Mr. Mell’s feedback gave me, as a young girl, a substantial portion of the confidence I have today to lead men and women of all ages.”

Mell’s mother, Freda Mell, wrote, “A few months ago, Tod had to make a life-changing decision … He is now losing his livelihood to provide for his family,” she wrote, adding, “It felt like it had to be a bad dream. I, along with many others, wanted Tod to fight this, but respect and understand his decision to take this plea.”

His mother wrote that Mell was “putting his family first” and stated, “Every decision he makes is for his family. He is losing his reputation and everything he worked for his entire life.”

Michael E. Mell, Mell’s father, wrote that he had been a police officer for 30 years and stated, “It is hard to understand how a truly good man losing his job and his license will benefit society.”

Gina Mell, Tod Mell’s wife, wrote that she and her husband have been happily married for almost 20 years. “Tod’s outstanding ability as an educator along with his joyful and warm personality landed him a job in Guilderland where he quickly became the most beloved teacher in the district,” she wrote.

Gina Mell wrote that she was “pleading” with the judge to consider a substantial reduction in the terms of Mell’s sentence, “so that we can to pick ourselves back up and find a way to move forward as a family.”


As part of the terms of his probation, Mell would not be allowed to leave the state, Bailey said in court, except with permission from his probation office, with one exception, a planned family trip to visit his parents in Florida.

Bailey noted that the probation office in charge of Mell’s case is likely to change. Clerk Jennifer Stephens said on Jan. 18 that, because Mell lives in Schenectady County, his case is likely to be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Albany County Probation Department to that of Schenectady County.

No order of protection was granted for the victim in this case.

Mell, as part of sex-offender conditions, is required to, among other requirements:

— Submit to a sex-offender evaluation at an Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abuser participating provider and, if recommended, participate in and complete sex-offender treatment at a participating provider;

— Have no contact with his victim until approved by his therapist, probation officer, the victim’s therapist, the victim’s guardian (if victim is a child), and a Child Protective Services caseworker;

—Inform everyone with whom he has a significant relationship or a close affiliation, or with whom he lives, of his offending history; and

— Not enter places where children congregate, including but not limited to parks, playgrounds, and schools, unless accompanied by his own children.

When the school district learned in April that Mell was being investigated by the Guilderland Police, he was suspended with pay. Since 2012, he had been working as a math specialist at Lynnwood Elementary School, and at the time of his suspension he was earning $91,290 annually.

A school’s math specialist helps teachers teach math and provides additional help to students who are struggling, Superintendent Marie Wiles told The Enterprise earlier.

Mell’s switch in position had nothing to do with the incident that had happened the previous year, said Wiles. The district did not learn about the incident until April 2018, she noted.

Mell submitted a resignation letter to the school district on Dec. 6, 2018, and the board of education accepted his resignation at its Dec. 18 meeting. The resignation became effective on Dec. 27. Dec. 6 was the date on which he was originally to be sentenced, and Dec. 27 was the first date to which the sentencing had been adjourned.

Mell surrendered his teaching certificate as part of his plea deal.


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