It took little time for a Miami-Dade jury to decide Dwight Bernard was not guilty of covering up a sex scandal involving a star football player at Northwestern Senior High School in 2006.
After only a few minutes of deliberating, Bernard, Northwestern's ex-principal, was acquitted of two counts of official misconduct. Bernard burst out crying after the verdict was read.
He had been accused of not reporting a sexual assault involving Antwain Easterling because he wanted the running back to play in the football state title game.
Bernard took the stand in his own defense Friday and told the jury that he was ordered by school board members not to suspend Easterling, who ended up helping the Bulls win the state title three days after being arrested.
"They said the kid would play after I said no," Bernard said. "They told me he was going to play because they said an arrest did not constitute an admission of any guilt,"
Easterling, who was 18 at the time, was caught in a restroom having sex with a 14-year-old girl just days before the state championship game. Instead of being punished or suspended, Easterling played in the game and helped Northwestern win the state title.
Easterling was charged with lewd and lascivious battery, but the charges were later dropped after he completed a pretrial program.
Prosecutors had accused Bernard of showing preferential treatment to the star player and not reporting the sex incident to police.
But Bernard told a jury that it wasn't his decision to make. He said he was called into a meeting and was told Easterling could play by associate superintendent Freddie Woodson.
Woodson took the stand moments later and denied the claim.
"I didn’t say anything to him," Woodson said. "The ultimate decision is made by the principal."
Harris played for Northwestern and was on the team in 2007 at the time of the alleged sex cover up. He said Bernard wasn't a football fan and didn't show players any special treatment.