Closing Arguments Underway In Charter School Sex Abuse Trial
South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Closing arguments got underway Monday in the case of a former Downtown Miami Charter School student who was allegedly sexually abused by an older classmate.
The boy claims he was abused once on the school’s private bus and twice in the school’s bathrooms.
The charter school’s principal, assistant principal and others have testified the assaults could not have occurred in the way the boy has described.
In his closing the boy’s attorney, Jeffrey Herman, said there is no way the boy was lying.
“That when he was eight years old, he came up with a scheme to come into a court room, that he faked it in order to spend time in a mental hospital,” said Herman.
Last week the jury heard from the boy himself and then listened to his recorded deposition.
The alleged victim said in the taped interview that he excels in school and has lots of friend. The boy said he was not thinking about killing himself which contradicted his live testimony when he said he thought about suicide “two or three times a week.”
During closing arguments, the lawyer for the charter school, Todd Ehrenreich, said the boy’s statements were also inconsistent with that his mother said.
“You hear all the evidence,” said Ehrenreich. “Mom says something, they talk to (the boy,) he contradicts her.”
The boy 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 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 were “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.
The child’s testimony came in the second week of his lawsuit against Charter Schools USA, the owner of the Miami elementary school.
The boy claims the sexual abuse began on a private school van when he was seven and his abuser was 11-years old. He said the older boy forced him to perform a sex act on the back row of the school van.
The school van driver said he witnessed nothing unusual on the bus the day the child claims he was assaulted.
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 who said 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 said he was afraid to go out, had panic attacks, a fear of restrooms and nightmares.
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.
The boy and his mother are suing for $25 million.
Deliberations will resume Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.