Ex-teacher to be tried 3rd time in molest case [USA]

September 4, 2004

The District Attorney’s Office announced yesterday it will try former Clairemont elementary school teacher Thad Jesperson for the third time on charges of molesting some of his second-grade students. “Two separate juries have labeled him a child molester,” prosecutor Tracy Prior said after a San Diego Superior Court hearing that dismayed the numerous Jesperson backers who again showed up in court to support the teacher. “We aren’t going to fold up our tents and go home.” The decision means at least three girls, and possibly four or five others, will have to testify again. Prior said that is regrettable, but that justice demands another trial because what allegedly happened to the girls “was every parent’s nightmare.” Jesperson, of Murrieta, was originally charged with molesting eight students at Toler Elementary School during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years. In March, the first jury convicted him of molesting one of the girls and deadlocked on charges involving the seven others. All of the girls testified they were touched inappropriately. In many cases the girls testified the touching was limited to pats on the buttocks or upper thighs, but in several cases they said the contact was more intimate. The second trial began in May, when prosecutors dropped charges involving one of the girls and proceeded on charges involving the six others. That jury convicted Jesperson of molesting one other child, acquitted him of charges involving three others and deadlocked on charges involving the remaining two. On the first jury’s conviction, Jesperson faced a potential prison sentence of up to eight years. The second conviction meant he would face life in prison. However, the second jury’s verdict was overturned by trial Judge David Danielsen last month after it was learned one of the jurors failed to reveal important details about her past. He said the juror would likely have been rejected during jury selection had she revealed she had been the victim of a flasher when she was a young girl, or that her son is serving a life prison sentence for murder. The juror discussed the flashing incident with the jury during deliberations in an effort to convince them that Jesperson was guilty, and therefore denied the former teacher a fair trial, Danielsen ruled. After yesterday’s hearing, Prior said her office has offered Jesperson a plea agreement that would spare him the possibility of facing a life prison term if he pleads guilty to some of the remaining charges. Jesperson has maintained his innocence throughout the trials and supporters said yesterday he has told them he will never admit guilt because he is innocent. Defense attorney Robert Boyce argued that the girls have been manipulated by parents and authorities into saying things that are untrue. The third trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 29. Jesperson, 40, remains in jail without bail.

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