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Former Erie County Social Services commissioner charged with rape

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Albany County District Attorney
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Former Erie County Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger was arraigned Monday in Albany on charges of rape and criminal sexual act for an alleged encounter with a female county employee at a hotel.

A grand jury in Albany County returned a sealed indictment charging Dirschberger, 53, with one count of Rape in the Third Degree and one count of Criminal Sexual Act in the Third Degree, both felonies.

Prosecutors say the crimes happened in the late evening and early morning of Dec. 5 and 6 at the Renaissance Albany Hotel. Dirschberger is accused of having sexual intercourse and engaging in oral sex with the 28-year-old woman without her consent.

The former commissioner pleaded not guilty to both charges. Bail was set at $5,000. Dirschberger's attorney, Nicholas Romano, released a statement Monday, reading, in part, "Dr. Dirschberger looks forward to the opportunity to provide his side of the story and fully defend himself."

Romano cites his client's "exemplary and unblemished record of over 30 years as a social worker, an educator and a public servant." He says he will request a speedy trial.

Dirschberger was forced to resign his position in late December when Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's office learned a criminal investigation was underway.

Poloncarz's office says the county executive is standing by his statement issued at the time that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, but if Dirschberger is convicted he should be punished according to the law.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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