Teacher accused of sexual assault

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A woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by her teacher when she was 17, relived the incident in court yesterday.

However, the accused, who was extradited to Bermuda from the United States to face the charges, denied having any physical contact with her.

The accused also told Magistrates’ Court that after he was told a complaint had been filed and that the police were coming, he left the island that same day because he was “frustrated and overwhelmed”.

Neither the complainant nor the defendant can be identified for legal reasons.

The defendant denies sexually assaulting the girl, who was 17 at the time, in May 2007.

Taking the stand, the woman described her fear when the man allegedly pulled her on to his lap and repeatedly touched her body.

The complainant told the court that the alleged sexual assault happened when she was in high school, where the defendant was teaching.

She said that she asked to stay behind to complete a project for another class and that the defendant agreed.

The complainant added: “He closed the door to the classroom. I thought it was a little strange, but I paid it no mind.”

She told the court that she went to sit at a computer and that the defendant approached her from behind.

The complainant said he started to run his fingers through her hair and touched her “all the way down my back” before picking her up “like a baby” and repeatedly lifting her up and down.

She added: “I was a little afraid that he was going to drop me, so I gripped his forearm and shut my eyes. I started to pray. I knew something wasn’t right.”

She told the court that she started to shake and the defendant put her down, only to pick her up again and position her against the front of his body.

She said the defendant put her down when she started to “shake really bad”, but then repeatedly pulled her on to his lap and touched her body again.

The complainant added: “From there, I was afraid; I was very afraid. My whole body started to shake once again.”

She said he let her leave after she told him repeatedly that she had to use the bathroom.

The complainant said she called her mother and sister before seeking her best friend, who walked her to the principal’s office.

She was given an appointment for 2pm. She reported what had happened and the police were called. She later made a statement at Hamilton police station.

The complainant told the court that she had first met the defendant through his daughter, whom she befriended in middle school.

She said: “I met him at his house when I used to go over and see his daughter to spend time with her.”

Defence lawyer Liz Christopher accused her during her cross-examination of having a crush on the defendant.

The complainant denied this, but confirmed that she had called the defendant’s daughter from New York to discuss bringing him a present upon her return.

She also agreed that her friendship with the defendant’s daughter ended because of the phone call.

But she denied Ms Christopher’s accusation that she had made up the allegations as a ploy to get the attention of the defendant and his family.

She told prosecutor Larissa Burgess that she had viewed the defendant as a “father figure” and had wanted to buy him a gift.

Taking the stand, the defendant said he did not know what that statement meant and that he did not have any affectionate relationship with the girl.

He remembered the complainant being present in his classroom that day but told the court that he recalled no discussion between them about a project.

The court heard that towards the end of the day he was told that the principal wished to speak with him.

He said that he was informed that a complaint had been made against him and “the police were coming to speak to me”.

He said that he had been “overwhelmed”.

“I didn’t know what was going on — I was told I was being suspended from my job,” he added.

He gathered his possessions and went home, where he felt troubled because “my relationship with my wife was crumbling and I had just lost my job”.

He added: “I decided that I didn’t want to be here any more. I didn’t want to deal with the negativity that could come with me and my wife arguing about what was going on in my life.

“I was frustrated and angry. I wanted to go home.”

He told the court that he took a cab to the airport and bought a ticket home to the US, where his children joined him two months later.

He and his wife were divorced the next year.

The trial continues in Magistrates’ Court on May 14.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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