MIAMI (CBSMiami) – “The number I’m asking for is $25 million.”
With that, attorney Jeffrey Herman put a price tag on the pain and suffering he argues a little boy has experienced as the result of being bullied and sexually abused at a Miami charter school.
In Miami-Dade court Thursday, attorneys played a video of the child, then seven years old, being interviewed by a sex abuse investigator in 2011.
“He made me lie down,” the boy told The counselor, as he described being forced to perform s sex act on an 11-year-old fifth-grader in a school van on its way to the Downtown Miami Charter School.
“”He took off his pants and his underwear,” the boy said in the video.
The child told his mother, who told the school. DCF and cops were brought in. But the charter school allowed the alleged offender to continue attending class. He allegedly went on to a sexually assault the second grader again, twice, in a school bathroom.
“The school did not remove the known danger,” Herman told the jury.” It’s like having a poisonous snake in the school.”
The charter school admits the 11-year-old had a history of acting out sexually. In fact, he was suspended for six days for looking up a teachers dress. Herman said the boy was also written up for pulling up little girls skirts, and viewing pornography on his cell phone.
In 2011 Principal Rebecca Dinda told the alleged victim’s mother she would keep the boys separated and monitor the situation. The mother alleges that did not stop the fifth-grader from going on to sexually assault her son again in the bathroom.
“Pain is being orally raped,” Herman told the jury. “Suffering is having to live with that the rest of your life. Suffering is when you someday have a girlfriend, and being reminded of being orally raped by another boy.”
The attorney representing Charter Schools USA, the owner of the Downtown Miami Charter School, said the boy fabricated stories of sexual assault.
“No one is calling this kid a liar, “said defense attorney Todd Ehrenreich.
“(He) can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy.”
Ehrenreich told jurors the child had lost a sister to an accident, and that his father was in prison, and that he had serious emotional and psychological issues long before the alleged sexual assaults at the school.
Ehrenreich said there were no eyewitnesses to the alleged assaults. He said the driver of the school van will testify he saw nothing happen on the school van the day the boy claims he was assaulted.
The defense says the boy’s mother, in documents provided by the school, said her son had “severe behavioral problems.”
The first witness called to the stand was the principal, Dinda. She dodged when asked if she believed that the seven-year-old was lying about being sexually abused.
“Is it my position that (he )was lying about being sexually abused? Can you be more specific,” she replied.
There was a telling moment, perhaps, when Judge Beatrice Butchko ruled that the videotaped interview with the child could be played to the jury.
The judge said the boy came across in the video as displaying child-like frankness and believability. She ruled that the tape was “relevant” to the case against the charter school.
The boy’s mother is expected to testify in the trial, and the child himself is also expected to take the stand.