Former Erie County Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger will spend five years in prison for raping a woman.
Dirschberger was sentenced in Albany County on Friday. He will also be on probation for 10 years following his release.
A jury in Albany convicted Dirschberger in March on one count of third-degree felony rape and one count of third-degree felony committing a criminal sexual act. The trial, including jury selection, lasted roughly five days.
He has been in police custody since his conviction.
The Albany County District Attorney’s Office said Dirschberger, without consent, engaged in sexual intercourse and oral sex with a woman who was known to him. It happened in a hotel in Albany while the two were attending a conference in early December 2017.
“This victim was forced in to sexual contact by a person with power over her, despite repeatedly telling him ‘No’ and being too intoxicated to legally consent. We are proud to deliver justice to her and to those who have supported and believed her,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
A few weeks after the incident occurred, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he learned of the allegations and asked Dirschberger to tender his resignation with the Department of Social Services. The County Legislature also retained independent counsel to investigate whether the county acted appropriately.
“Today’s verdict confirms my administration took the correct course of action in performing an immediate investigation of the incident upon learning of it and asking for the defendant’s resignation after confirming that he had violated numerous Erie County policies. Independent counsel retained by the Legislature also confirmed that my administration acted quickly and appropriately in this case and cooperated fully with investigators and law enforcement as the case moved forward,” Poloncarz said. “Additionally, it should be noted that Erie County declined to provide a defense or indemnity for the defendant upon learning of these charges as his actions did not fall within the scope of his public employment or duties. I do not tolerate any form of sexual misconduct, especially the abhorrent conduct in this case, and my thoughts are with the victim at this time.”
Legislator Lynne Dixon, I, who is challenging Poloncarz for county executive, released a statement on the sentence.
“Today, former Social Services Commissioner Al Dirschberger got what he deserved,” she said,. This story has bothered me for more than a year now. The whole culture that allowed a Commissioner to invite a junior level staffer to a conference so he could prey on her is troubling. Beyond troubling, is the finding in the Special Counsel’s report that the victim he raped had previously complained to management about his behavior toward her and it went unchecked. A grand jury of his peers indicted him, another jury convicted him, and now he knows his punishment. It is my hope that his victim somehow finds peace, and my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family at this time as well as Mr. Dirschberger’s family.”
Dirschberger’s maximum sentence for the charges was eight years in state prison.