Closing Arguments Start Monday In Charter School Sex Abuse Case
South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Closing arguments are set to start Monday in the case of a seven-year-old boy who was allegedly sexually abused while a student at the Downtown Miami Charter School.
Both sides rested Friday after the alleged abuser, now 13-years old, took the stand.
The boy took the stand and was only asked one question; his name.
No cross examination followed the boy’s response.
Earlier Friday, the school’s attorney insisted the boy be put on the stand but Judge Beatrice Butchko was hesitant because he did not have an attorney and his mother did not understand the possible risks of him testifying – including self-incrimination.
After a heated exchange between the attorney for the school, Todd Ehrenreich, and the judge, a public defender was appointed to represent the alleged abuser.
They continued with another routine witness while the boy met with his newly appointed attorney.
In the morning, the jury heard the deposition of the child who was allegedly sexually abused.
The jury listened to nearly two hours of taped deposition of the alleged victim. Defense was trying to show the boy does not remain traumatized.
The alleged victim said in the taped talks that he excels in school and has lots of friend. The boy said he does not think about killing himself which contradicts his live testimony on Wednesday when he said he thinks about suicide “two or three times a week.” He also said he would not allow himself to be sexually abused again.
“I would say ‘no’ and run away,” the boy said in the deposition that was taped four months ago.
The boy also boasted of his school work, and winning a science project contest
He was asked, “You got first place?”
He replied, “Yes, out of the whole school!”
The child remained adamant that he was abused by the 5th grader at the charter school, using his arms to demonstrate the older boy was a good two feet taller.
“I said ‘no, I’m not doing it.’ He said ‘if you don’t do it, I will kill your mom,”he said.
The child said the memory of the sex assaults are “fading” in his mind but he still suffers panic attacks and feels “very nervous, very upset, very scared.”
The youngster said he is happy at the school he now attends, but was never happy at the charter school after the alleged assaults.
“I thought it would happen again and again,” he said.
On Wednesday, the alleged victim testified in person and described the alleged abuse he suffered.
The child’s testimony came in the second week of his lawsuit against Charter Schools USA, the owner of the Miami elementary school.
With his mom watching, the boy said the sexual abuse began on a private school van when he was seven and his abuser was 11-years old.
“He pushed me down and he pulled down his pants, and put his hand on my head and pushed my head toward his private part,” the boy testified in a quiet voice. He said the older boy forced him to perform a sex act on the back row of the school van.
The child said he told his mother, who told the school’s principal. The principal, Rebecca Dinda, assured the mother the boys would be kept apart, but the second grader says the abuser continued to follow and curse him on campus. He says he told the assistant principal.
“I came in and I said I’m still seeing (the other boy) everywhere I go,” the boy said. The child testified that the assistant principal told him he would “take care of it.”
The boy said it wasn’t taken care of however, and the alleged abuser went on to assault him again in a first-floor restroom at the charter school.
“I went to the bathroom and (the other boy) was inside waiting for me,” the child said. “He punched me in the stomach and he pulled down his pants.” The older boy again forced him to perform a sex act, he said. He testified that he would twice be forced to submit in the school restroom. He did not tell anyone, he said, because of threats from his tormentor.
“I kept quiet because he kept saying ‘If you tell anyone what happened, then I’ll kill your mom.'”
The youngster finally spoke up after being hospitalized for trying to kill himself, once by running into traffic, and again by sticking a metal rod into an electrical outlet.
He testified that he is afraid to go out now, has panic attacks, a fear of restrooms, and nightmares. He no longer has a love of playing basketball.
“All the activities that I used to have that were fun, it doesn’t seem fun anymore,” the boy said.
The child’s attorney, Jeffrey Herman, ended his testimony with this exchange: “It’s very important,” Herman said to the boy. “I want you to look at the jury. Is everything you’re telling us here today the truth?”
“Yes,” the child replied.
The charter school’s principal, assistant principal, and others have testified the assaults could not have occurred in the way the boy has described. The school van driver said he witnessed nothing unusual on the bus the day the child claims he was assaulted. School officials have testified the restroom where the alleged assaults occurred was always monitored by a staff member during the times the child claims he was attacked, and was off-limits to the older students.
An expert witness for the allegedly abused youngster testified Wednesday that the school failed miserably in protecting the boy after the report of the initial incident on the school van.
Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, an expert on education and sexual harassment, said the school did not follow acceptable protocols after first learning of the abuse. She said the alleged abuser should have been monitored by an adult from “the time he came on campus in the morning until the time he left at the end of the day.” He was not.