Jury Hears Opening Statements in Charter School Sex Assault Trial - NBC 6 South Florida

Jury Hears Opening Statements in Charter School Sex Assault Trial



    (Published Thursday, April 3, 2014)

    The jury heard opening statements on Thursday in the trial of a boy's alleged sexual abuse at a Miami charter school.

    In the trial of John Doe vs. Charter Schools USA,  the plaintiff's attorney argued that the Downtown Miami Charter School failed to protect the alleged victim.

    "Those decisions that they chose to make resulted in this boy's life being destroyed at seven years old, trying to kill himself," said Jeff Herman, who said the school should have expelled the alleged offender, a fifth-grader who had several behavioral issues before this incident.

    Herman told the jury the 11-year-old boy allegedly raped the seven-year-old on the way to school in a transport van. The older boy allegedly raped him two more times in the school restroom. The seven-year-old boy then allegedly tried to kill himself and told his therapist he wanted to die.

    "The evidence will show that the overwhelming events of being orally raped dominate everything that's going on before and that's what's causing him to be depressed and suicidal," Herman said.

    The defense argued that the boy was already depressed from his sister's death when he was two years old, and from his father's incarceration in prison. The jury saw the boy on video being interviewed by a sexual assault counselor from Kristi House, a Miami-Dade child advocacy non-profit. In the video, the boy described the sexual assault by pointing to his private parts.

    The defense says the boy was coached. The school's principal, Rebecca Dinda, took the stand and admitted she thought boy was telling the truth about being assaulted in the van.

    "I believed Josh when he told me," Dinda said, agreeing that he was believable.

    But the school sticks to the position that the bathroom assaults never happened.

    "No one's calling this kid a liar, [the boy] can't tell the difference between real and fantasy, his mom's own words," said defense attorney Todd Ehrenreich to the jury.

    He was referring to a reply the mother wrote shortly after her son reported the incident.

    The jury will hear from the mother tomorrow.

    The plaintiffs are asking for $25 million in damages, saying the boy's life is ruined, that he will never recover from the psychological damage these experiences have inflicted upon him.