Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Children's Hour: Part VI

Caught this story about the Chester County teacher accused of fondling a student being found Not Guilty last week and the nightmare of that ordeal.

Because the story was light on the facts of the case, I called up the stories on the trial. Here's the one on the verdict. And here's one during the trial. And here's the one about the girl's testimony.

What is clear from all three stories is that the prosecution had an unbelievably weak case from the get go. There was no corraborating evidence to the girl's rather fantastic story of having been tutored by the teacher, berated by him for being stupid and then groped between her legs by him.

No witnesses. No evidence that the two were ever even alone together. Just this 16-year-old girl's word, eight years after the alleged incident took place. From one of the trial articles there was this:
Also testifying was Chester County Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Gordon, who supervises cases of child abuse in his office.

He said that he had been notified of a possible assault from a Spring City counselor who was in touch with the girl. When he interviewed the girl, she explained that she had seen Monaghan in the hallway at the high school and started talking with her friends about how harsh he had been to her as a first-grader.

When one of her friends remembered how much she enjoyed his class, the girl got upset. Under cross-examination by Baer, Gordon said she told him that she went home, went to her room and cried. She said that was “the first time she understood this was physical abuse,” the investigator acknowledged she told him.
As for the girl's testimony:
The girl tearfully testified that Ryan Thomas Monaghan stroked her shoulders and arms before putting his hands underneath her underwear as she sat at her desk trying to read while her fellow East Vincent Elementary School classmates were away from the classroom.

Monaghan has been suspended from his position as language arts supervisor in the northern Chester County district since his arrest in May.

“He was lecturing me about (her poor reading), but I didn’t know what he was doing,” the girl, now a sophomore at Owen J. Roberts High School, told the jury of eight men and four women during the first day of testimony in Monaghan’s trial before Judge David Bortner, describing the alleged assaults. “I didn’t know what to say.”

The girl said Monaghan massaged her between her legs underneath her underwear while angrily correcting her reading, and then took her to the cafeteria or recess without discussing what had happened. The assaults occurred as often as twice a week during the 2001-2002 school year, she said in trial testimony.

“He would tell me, ‘You’re not doing this right,’” she testified. “'You’re really stupid.' He made me feel like I was totally worthless.”
All while having his hands down her pants? I don't think I have ever heard such an absurd story in my life. And any grown-up who would believe such a tale absent SOME sort of corraborating evidence, shouldn't be allowed to be around children, let alone have a badge, a gun or the authority to prosecute others.

We've seen this sort of thing before. Teachers and others being accused by children telling stories that require a suspension of disbelief to even entertain and cops and prosecutors irresponsibly deciding to let a jury decide who's telling the truth.

Sometimes prosecutors have more evidence of crime than can be presented at trial. If that was the case here it would be very interesting to hear what that evidence might be. Because based on what was presented, no jury in its right mind would have handed down a conviction. And any DAs office worth its salt should have known that. This sort of prosecutorial stupidity ought to be punished come election time. Too bad it almost never is.

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