MINEOLA, NY — A former Long Island high school teacher accused of injecting a teenage girl with a COVID-19 vaccine in her home without her parents’ knowledge has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to community service and a probation, avoiding a felony charge that could have sent him to prison.
Laura Parker Russo, 55, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted unauthorized practice of medicine when she appeared in court in Mineola, New York on Friday. She also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Russo was arrested in early January and authorities accused her of giving the 17-year-old, the son of someone she knew, a dose of vaccine. Newsday reported that Russo later testified at a hearing about her work that she received the dose when a pharmacist gave her expired doses after she asked for an empty bottle to use as a Christmas decoration.
Authorities said the teen later told his parents, who called the police. Prosecutors had initially charged her with unlawful practice of the profession, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.
Russo had been a science teacher for many years; she was later fired.
On Friday, Judge Howard Sturim ordered her to complete 100 hours of community service over a year while she was on provisional probation. She was also ordered to go to therapy twice a week and stay away from the teenager.
If Russo meets the community service requirement, prosecutors would dismiss the misdemeanor charge.
A spokesperson for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said it accepted the plea and sentence “based on the defendant’s longstanding ties to the community and her lack of a criminal record.”
Russo’s attorney, Gerard McCloskey, told Newsday the plea deal “is in the interests of justice as well as in the best interests of my client.”