A drug charge against an East Aurora High School teacher has been dropped at the request of a prosecutor.
Ryan J. Ellis, 36, a high school technology teacher and golf coach, was arrested Dec. 3 after Buffalo police said they found crack cocaine in his vehicle.
Ellis, of Meadowbrook Drive in North Tonawanda, was arrested at about 6:30 p.m. at Goodyear Avenue and East Ferry Street, according to a Buffalo police report. A small quantity of crack was found in his vehicle, police said.
The contraband and Ellis’ statement would not have been admitted in court because police violated his constitutional rights, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said.
Sedita would not discuss the details of the seizure or the probable cause the police cited in stopping and searching Ellis.
“I cannot prosecute a case knowing the evidence is inadmissible in a court of law,” Sedita said. “The bottom line is the evidence was unlawfully seized and therefore is inadmissible.”
Ellis was released on his own recognizance during his arraignment in Buffalo City Court on the misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance.
The district started an internal investigation after his arrest and placed Ellis on leave.
East Aurora Schools Superintendent Brian D. Russ released a statement Friday saying: “The district will pursue whatever action it deems appropriate under the circumstances. Any action taken by the district concerning its employees is separate from any criminal process – as it expects its employees, especially its teachers, to act professionally at all times and as role models for its students.”
He declined to comment further.
The East Aurora School Board this week voted to terminate Ellis’ probationary science appointment, but he remains on paid leave as a tenured technology teacher.
District officials stressed that the board action only ends Ellis’ probationary appointment, as of Feb. 8, in the science tenure area. He is dually certified in technology and science.
“It is more complicated than it first appears,” board President Daniel Brunson said.
Ellis previously was convicted on a misdemeanor drug possession count in 2000, after he attended a North Tonawanda party where a fatal drug overdose occurred.
He was one of several people whom police said brought Ecstasy to the party. He was sentenced in 2001 to three years of probation and 200 hours of community service.
He also had two subsequent convictions for driving while intoxicated – pleading guilty in 2006 in Amherst Town Court and again in 2009 in Tonawanda City Court. In both those cases, he received conditional discharges and his driver’s license was revoked.
District officials have said Ellis cleared checks with the state Education Department when they hired him and that they did not know of his earlier drug conviction.