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Berwyn lawyer denies sex with Russian dancer

Calls charges of anal, oral assault on teen 'false'

A wealthy Berwyn lawyer flat-out denied to a federal jury yesterday that he sexually assaulted an underage Russian ballet dancer who lived with him in Moscow.

Roman Zavarov, who is now 24, married and a professional dancer in Arizona, testified last week that Kenneth Schneider had oral and anal sex with him three to four times a week from August 2000 to November 2001.

Testifying for most of the day, Schneider, 46, said yesterday that he agreed to help Zavarov after he learned that the boy, a gifted ballet student, had been expelled from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy because his parents couldn't afford his room and board costs.

Schneider said he had enlisted friends and a housekeeper in summer 1998 to find other accommodations for Zavarov, then 12, but there were few, if any, vacant apartments near the academy.

Schneider said he agreed to let Zavarov live with him "temporarily," with his parents' consent, which he said he had. (Schneider lent the Zavarovs about $480 to pay off the Bolshoi debt.)

The lawyer worked for Wall Street-based law firms in the 1990s, helping them set up offices in Moscow. He said he facilitated international transactions for clients as Russia evolved from part of the Soviet Union into a market-based economy. He later worked for a prominent Russian investment house.

Schneider testified that he often "worked very long hours" during the week and was rarely at the apartment except to sleep. On weekends and holidays, Zavarov stayed with his parents, he said.

He said that he and Zavarov had separate bedrooms and that, initially, a housekeeper and, later, one of Zavarov's ballet instructors kept an eye out for him, prepared meals and helped with homework.

Zavarov had testified last week that Schneider manipulated him to keep their allegedly illicit sexual relationship intact and a secret, and warned him not to date girls lest they take advantage of him.

But under questioning from defense attorney Joseph P. Green Jr., Schneider said that Zavarov had a girlfriend when he was 15.

"[She] was a foreign student from Asia who was studying at the school," Schneider said, adding that he never interfered with the relationship, discouraged it or ever discouraged Zavarov from having a relationship with any female, including his future wife.

A bit later, Green wrapped up his direct examination: "Mr. Schneider, did you ever sexually assault Roman Zavarov?"

"Absolutely not," he replied.

On cross-examination, Schneider coolly parried questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Morgan-Kelly.

He admitted that he bought food, clothing and a PlayStation for Zavarov while he lived with him.

The prosecutor soon cut to the chase, referring to a flight that Zavarov and Schneider took on Aug. 22, 2001, from Philadelphia to Moscow.

"Isn't it true that in 2001 you put your mouth on Roman Zavarov's penis?" she asked.

"That is incorrect," he replied.

"Isn't it true that in 2001 you anally engaged in intercourse with Roman Zavarov?"

"That is absolutely false," Schneider said.

Closing arguments are slated for this morning and the jury is expected to get the case later today.