A D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday found a former D.C. special education teacher who’s gay not guilty of charges that he sexually assaulted on two occasions a 9-year-old male student at Minor Elementary School on Capitol Hill.
Following a two-week non-jury trial, Judge Robert Morin found Leroy Damien Ware, 34, not guilty on two counts each of misdemeanor sexual assault of a child or minor and misdemeanor sex abuse.
In delivering the verdict from the bench in oral remarks, Morin said police and prosecutors failed to show that Ware had intentionally interacted with the boy in a way that constituted sexual assault, according to gay activist Martin Moulton, who attended the trial.
Moulton, who did not know Ware prior to the trial, said the not-guilty verdict came about a week after a 10-year-old boy and classmate of the alleged victim took the witness stand and gave dramatic testimony saying the alleged victim had made anti-gay remarks about Ware and said he planned to do something against Ware.
“Most notably, during the trial, a 10-year-old male peer of the supposed ‘victim’ gave extensive testimony on behalf of his teacher, Mr. Ware, about what was in fact a blatantly homophobic attack from a notoriously unruly and troubled child who had impudently pulled his pants down during class,” Moulton told the Blade.
“On the witness stand, this child’s testimony demonstrated convincing and remarkable wisdom, compassion, and sensitivity to all of the adult issues involved,” said Moulton, who noted that the 10-year-old told others that he has a gay uncle and doesn’t think it’s right to treat gay people in an unfair way.
William Miller, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney, which prosecuted the case against Ware, said the office would have no comment on the case or the acquittal.
A D.C. police arrest affidavit filed in court Feb. 5, 2015 says police learned of the sexual assault allegation from the alleged victim’s mother, who helped arrange for the boy to talk to police investigators. The affidavit says the alleged victim, who is referred to as the complainant in the case, told police Ware “touched my private parts” once in a classroom and another time in a computer lab.
Charging documents say the alleged touching took place sometime between October and December of 2014.
According to the affidavit, Ware told investigators in a “non-custodial interview” on Feb. 2, 2015, that he inadvertently touched the complainant’s penis while “attempting to remove the complainant’s hands from inside his pants” during a session at the computer lab. It says the second incident occurred in a classroom when Ware allegedly touched the boy on his buttocks.
Moulton said that Ware testified at the trial that the touching incidents occurred when the student was acting inappropriately in class and in the computer lab. In the interaction at the computer lab, Ware testified it appeared that the boy was masturbating with his hand inside his own pants, and Ware approached him and removed the boy’s hand from his pants, Moulton recounted.
During a trial session on Jan. 14, in which a Blade reporter was present, Ware’s defense attorney, Chantaye Redmon-Reid, played an audio recording of the police interview of Ware and argued that one or more detectives repeatedly “badgered” Ware into saying things that were not true.
Redmon-Reid said police investigators “lied” to Ware during the interview by claiming they had obtained DNA evidence showing Ware sexually assaulted the 9-year-old. Moulton said police subsequently acknowledged fabricating the DNA claim but have said doing so is a legally permissible technique for interrogating suspects in a criminal case.
“Judge Morin was very critical of MPD detectives’ tactics in deceiving the teacher and essentially badgering him until they obtained the story they wanted to hear,” Moulton said.
Morin called the claim about DNA evidence a “legal” but “concerning tactic in view of the court,” which “was not productive,” Moulton recounted.
In describing Morin’s explanation for his verdict, Moulton said the judge said he carefully looked at the facts in the case.
“And he just said the guy didn’t intend to touch the kid, Moulton recalls. “He wasn’t planning to do it. It took at most like two seconds that he was reaching for his hand and may have accidentally touched the kid’s penis. But it was in no way intentional. And that’s what the case hinged on,” Moulton recounted the judge as saying.
Ware told the Blade in a brief interview on Friday that he plans to release a statement soon, among other things, expressing concern that the news media for the most part downplayed or failed to report that he was acquitted after sensationally reporting the accusations against him at the time of his arrest.
He said he “unofficially” submitted a letter of resignation from his job as a special education teacher in the D.C. public school system shortly after his arrest. But he said the letter was never formally processed through the school system’s personnel office. He said he later informed school officials that he rescinded the resignation and would take a leave of absence until his case was resolved.