STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – A male teacher has sued an award-winning Richmond Valley dance school, alleging he was wrongfully fired earlier this year over “false” accusations of sexual misconduct against him that had been posted online.
Alonzo Williams’ $15-million suit was filed as he faces misdemeanor sexual-abuse charges in both Manhattan and New Rochelle stemming from alleged incidents in 2018 and 2019, respectively, court records show.
Williams was only recently arrested on those charges and “vigorously” denies them, said his lawyer Ambrose W. Wotorson Jr.
As for Williams’ termination, a civil complaint and Wotorson allege Star Struck Dance acted on and disclosed “defamatory” accusations against Williams that were posted “anonymously” on Instagram by two women, one of whom he had previously fired from his own dance company.
Wotorson said those women also lodged the criminal complaints against Williams.
Star Struck libeled Williams “by communicating to one or more third parties that he was terminated, in part, because of allegations of sexual misconduct against him which are false and the product of gender discrimination and bias,” the civil complaint alleges.
The school failed to investigate the claims or give Williams a chance to respond to them, alleges the civil complaint.
The Westchester County resident has been unable to get a comparable job since his dismissal in January from Star Struck, said the civil complaint.
He had six months left on his one-year contract.
“Mr. Williams had a good relationship with Star Struck, and he was surprised they didn’t even bother to ask his side of the story,” said Wotorson.
“They may not have taken the actions they took had they known about the two people who made the Instagram post,” Wotorson said.
In response, Allyn Crawford, Star Struck’s lawyer said, “We have not been served with the (civil) complaint, but we’re confident that our client did nothing wrong, and that the school’s position will be vindicated at the end of the case.”
The suit was recently filed in state Supreme Court, St. George. Star Struck is the sole defendant.
Williams seeks $5 million each for breach of contract, loss of reputation, and punitive damages. The latter claim is for Star Struck’s “egregious acts and reckless disregard for plaintiff’s livelihood and peace of mind,” the civil complaint maintains.
Wotorson said Williams ran his company, Rhythm City, off-Island, and supplemented his income by teaching at other dance schools.
He had a one-year oral contract to work with Star Struck starting in June 2019, said Wotorson.
However, he was terminated on Jan. 2, alleges the civil complaint.
Star Struck told “one or more” third parties Williams was fired because of the allegations contained in the Instagram post, the civil complaint alleges.
Those third parties aren’t identified.
Such accusations suggest Williams is a “serial sexual harasser of his own students and/or staff,” said the civil complaint.
Those allegations are “maliciously false,” “implausible” and “defamatory,” the civil complaint contends.
Wotorson said the allegations against Williams were posted by the Instagram account “Protect NYC Dancers,” just days before the plaintiff was sacked.
Star Struck never gave Williams the opportunity to refute the accusations, said the complaint.
Despite the anonymity of the post, the civil complaint and Wotorson allege two former “disgruntled” employees of Williams at Rhythm City dance studio created and administer the Instagram account.
Williams had fired one of the women for “gender-based misconduct” in November or December of 2018, the lawsuit alleges.
Those two women have filed the criminal complaints against him, leading to Williams’ recent arrests, said Wotorson.
A complaint in Manhattan Criminal Court alleges Williams grabbed a woman’s private parts over her clothing on a Manhattan street on Sept. 1, 2018.
Williams surrendered to authorities last month on June 10 after they reached out to him about that criminal complaint, said Wotorson.
Subsequently, on June 22, Williams turned himself in to New Rochelle authorities after learning they, too, wanted to speak to him on a criminal matter.
According to information from the Westchester County district attorney’s office, Williams is accused of forcibly sexually touching a victim against the victim’s will inside his New Rochelle home sometime between Sept. 25 and 30 of 2018.
Williams is charged in both cases with misdemeanor counts of forcible touching and sexual abuse.
Both cases are pending; the latter in New Rochelle City Court.
Wotorson said Williams “vigorously” denies the charges in both matters.
In fact, Williams has evidence, such as videos and text messages, showing he was out of state on Sept. 1, 2018, said the lawyer.
Williams may also have similar evidence with respect to the New Rochelle case, Wotorson said.
“Both cases are on shaky ground at this point,” said Wotorson, adding one of the complainants “had a long list of employment grievances” against Williams.
“We believe that’s what’s behind this,” the attorney said.
Wotorson said Williams had sued the two women in Manhattan federal court earlier this year, but is removing the case to Bronx state Supreme Court. It is a defamation suit.
Star Struck is a well-known and highly regarded dance school.
It has an enrollment of more than 800 students, comprised of girls and boys from age 2 through adult, according to its website.
School dancers have won numerous awards over the years, including at national competitions.
In 2013, its Struck Boyz dance team competed on the TV-show “America’s Got Talent,” advancing to the semi-finals, Advance/SILive.com reports show.
In 2017, two of the school’s students danced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the Advance/SILive.com previously reported.
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