UPDATE March 29, 2013: Court of Appeal says Thad Jesperson may go back to work
Judge Reverses Firing of Teacher Tried for Molestation
March 29, 2013
A Fourth District Court [of Appeal in California] judge on Wednesday overturned the firing of a San Diego teacher who spent more than three years in prison after being falsely convicted of molesting second and third grade students.
In a written ruling, the judge noted that officials at Clairemont's Toler Elementary School acted erroneously when they terminated Thad Jesperson's employment in November 2008.
Jesperson was arrested in April 2003, tried three times and ultimately convicted on seven counts of molestation. He was sentenced to serve 15 years to life in prison but was released in 2007 because of misconduct on the part of jurors and ineffective assistance from his own attorney. All convictions were overturned and Jesperson asked Toler Elementary officials to reinstate him.
The school denied his request despite the overturning of all molestation convictions and a ruling from a commission on professional competence that Jesperson was fit to teach and that "the evidence (in the case) did not establish that he touched (one of the students who accused Jesperson of molestation) in the manner to which she testified, or in any other manner that was immoral or a violation of district regulations...".
July 20, 2012 note: I used to have confidence that judges would never ignore the law and the evidence. But I have lost that confidence. There was no reason to believe the accusations that children came up with AFTER they were manipulated by adults. This reminds me of the Dale Akiki case. Amazingly, in this case the Office of Administrative Hearings got it right.
Bonnie Dumanis really wanted to get this teacher convicted, but it took jury misconduct and inadequate legal representation to achieve the goal.
I know Judge Nevitt to be a decent judge. Almost all judges feel an obligation to support school districts, but in this case, I think Judge Nevitt was right to overturn the decision of the Office of Administrative hearings. The OAH is pretty much a joke as far as administering the law fairly or effectively.
Schools shouldn't take risks with the well-being of kids. Even though he might be innocent, it makes sense for Jesperson to find another job. Jesperson might file a civil suit. In that case, it might make sense for the school to give him a desk job.
UPDATE--COURT OF APPEAL SAYS OAH WAS RIGHT, JUDGE NEVITT WAS WRONG:
Thad Jesperson Conviction Overturned
Sep 13th, 2007
by Mark L. Jackson
Another blow to the San Diego Justice System. Appeals court overturns the conviction of Thad Jesperson. Citing incompetence on the part of his legal team, and the misconduct by the jury (no doubt the Judge has some blame here as well)...
When first questioned by San Diego detectives, the children who made the initial accusations denied anything happened.
Eventually, the students said they were touched by Jesperson while they read with him at the front of a classroom. Some said the touching was a light rubbing over their clothes, but others said that the touching was more intimate.
Sevilla said that under repeated questioning by police, school officials and social workers at Rady Children’s Hospital, the students’ story changed.
What the hell were the prosecutors thinking? No doubt ‘this will get me a promotion and get me elected to City Attorney, or even *gasp* Attorney General.’
Where the hell were they when the Jurors were breaking the rules? One Juror lied about being molested as a child, no doubt hoping to hang a molester. Another Juror used previous training as a teacher in deliberations, clearly out of bounds.
However this is the worst:
On one tape, a social worker is heard to say “we are here to make sure he (Jesperson) doesn’t do that to you or any more kids.”...
Dec 10, 2010
Court Finds Teacher 'Unfit to Teach'
by Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
A Superior Court judge ruled last week that a San Diego teacher who was first convicted of child molestation, then freed after his convictions were overturned, is still "unfit to teach."
That would give San Diego Unified School District the legal backing to fire the teacher, who had successfully fought his firing in an earlier appeal...
Thad Jesperson had been put on trial three times before his conviction was thrown out because of jury misconduct and inadequate legal representation. After his convictions were reversed more than two years ago, San Diego Unified decided to terminate Jesperson for immoral conduct and unfitness for service.
The school district alleged that Jesperson had "engaged in lewd and lascivious acts" with four female students, the same allegations that led to his criminal charges, according to court documents. His teaching credential had lapsed while he was incarcerated, according to court documents.
Jesperson contested the charges before a panel called the Commission on Professional Competence, which hears teacher terminations. He argued that he never engaged in misconduct with any child and that trying to fire him based on allegations that had been overturned in court was "double jeopardy."
In February, the panel concluded that there was no cause to dismiss Jesperson, concluding that there was too little evidence to show that he had inappropriately touched a child the way she had testified. Only one of the students was called to testify.
The school district fought the finding in Superior Court. Attorney Jon Vanderpool, who is representing Jesperson, argued in a legal filing that the classroom layout and present witnesses made it implausible that Jesperson had touched the girl as alleged and that her testimony was not credible or consistent.
"Because they did not find Jesperson touched Emily inappropriately, no measure of unfitness, immoral conduct, or violation of regulations was demonstrated by the District," Vanderpool wrote.
But Judge William R. Nevitt, Jr. ruled against the disciplinary panel that had backed Jesperson, saying its finding was "contrary to the weight of the evidence." Nevitt concluded that the evidence showed the girl had been touched inappropriately, which "constitutes immoral conduct making him unfit to teach."...