WOBURN — An assistant teacher and coach at Malden High School pleaded not guilty Tuesday to accusations that he raped a 16-year-old disabled boy in a school bathroom and threatened to kill the teenager’s mother if he resisted.
Steven J. MacDonald, 46, of Malden, was released on personal recognizance following his arraignment in Middlesex Superior Court on charges of rape, indecent assault and battery on a disabled person, and assault with intent to rape.
In court, Assistant District Attorney Courtney C. Linnehan said the attacks on the boy, who has “multiple disabilities,” began last September when MacDonald was assigned to work in the teenager’s classroom as a paraprofessional. MacDonald was responsible for taking the boy to the bathroom, she said.
Linnehan alleged that during trips to the bathroom MacDonald committed sex acts on himself, raped the student, and forced the student to commit other sex acts.
“The defendant continuously threatened to go to the victim’s home and kill his mother,’’ Linnehan said.
As the alleged assaults continued during the school year, Linnehan said, the student tried to avoid using the bathroom, but would sometimes have “accidents” and was left with soaked clothes in the hallways of the school.
MacDonald, she said, sometimes offered the student candy “to lure him into the bathroom.’’
She said the student told school employees that MacDonald was “mean.” He stayed home from school on March 24 and March 25 and reported the incidents to his mother on March 27.
“He did not return to Malden High School again,’’ Linnehan said.
MacDonald was placed on administrative leave March 29 after school officials were alerted to the allegations, said Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, who also leads the city’s school committee.
MacDonald also served as assistant football coach from 2012 to 2016 and coached freshman baseball from 2014 until he was put on leave, Christenson said.
The mayor called the indictment “deeply concerning,” but said he could not comment further, citing an ongoing criminal investigation and personnel matters. Licensure is not required for paraprofessionals, a state education official said.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said Malden police and school officials helped to investigate the allegations against MacDonald. A grand jury indicted him Aug. 2, court records show.
“The defendant in this case was trusted to care for and assist the student that he allegedly sexually assaulted,” Ryan said in a statement. “Such allegations, if proven, violate the trust that parents and guardians place in their children’s educators.”
MacDonald appeared in court surrounded by about 10 relatives and friends. He declined to comment.
In an interview, defense attorney Alan Tuttman called the indictments against MacDonald “troubling,” saying the accuser’s allegations are not credible. “They’re not believable,” Tuttman said. “There’s nothing to substantiate it. There’s no physical evidence.”
MacDonald’s accuser uses a wheelchair and functions at a second-grade level, Tuttman said. “It’s pretty widely known that the alleged victim would fabricate,” he said.
Tuttman described MacDonald as a “well respected member of the Malden community” who has been married for 18 years and has two sons, ages 13 and 16. “He’s a little bit in shock,” Tuttman said.
MacDonald was initially ordered to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial, but Tuttman successfully appealed the ruling during a hearing before Judge Bruce Henry, court records show.
Under the terms of his release, MacDonald is prohibited from having unsupervised contact with children 18 years or younger, excluding his own. He is also barred from holding a job or volunteer position with children under 18. MacDonald’s next court date is Sept. 15.
Joe Pappagallo, the former head football coach at Malden High, said he began coaching with MacDonald in 2000 and let him baby-sit his children.
“This is so out of character for him; it’s not even close,” Pappagallo said in a phone interview. “Nobody believes it. Everybody says there’s somebody bearing false witness here.”