Trial decision delayed for Summit Middle School teacher accused of sexual misconduct
Judge to review recorded interviews of alleged victims before ruling
An official decision to go forth with a trial for Summit Middle School teacher Leonard Grams has been delayed in order to review evidence in relation to accusations of inappropriate contact with students.
During a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 27, both sides argued why they believe the case should or should not go to trial. Fifth Judicial District Judge Karen Romeo, who presided over the hearing, said she is going to review an estimated 3 1/2 hours of recorded interviews before writing a ruling.
The case stems from accusations by several Summit Middle School students of inappropriate contact in fall 2021, sparking an investigation into Grams, who has been with Summit School District for 28 years. Grams denies all of the allegations and was placed on administrative leave.
During the hearing, the prosecution called Detective Sgt. Mark Gafari, who was the lead investigator on the case at the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The prosecution and the defense asked Gafari questions about the timeline and details of the accusations.
When questioned by Deputy District Attorney Lauren Crisera, Gafari confirmed that the students who alleged inappropriate behavior were consistent with their stories and would correct interviewers if something was repeated incorrectly. That’s in contrast to information in the arrest affidavit, in which school district officials stated that some of the alleged victims changed or stumbled over their stories.
On Tuesday, Gafari added that other students — who did not bring forth specific allegations of inappropriate touching — told investigators that Grams acted inappropriately and was “mean to the girls and not to the guys.” Gafari also said not all students who were forensically interviewed were part of the same social circles, something Grams had alleged during the district’s investigation. Gafari added that Grams was not consistent when asked about touching children’s clothing in specific instances, such as when checking rock-climbing harnesses.
“The people have provided evidence sufficient to induce a person of ordinary prudence and caution to a reasonable belief that the defendant has committed the alleged crimes charged,” Crisera said.
The accusations were brought to officials at Summit Middle School in September 2021, and allegations continued until mid-October, according to the affidavit. The school conducted its own investigation beginning Oct. 18 before involving law enforcement. In its investigation, the school concluded that some of the accusations were “sketchy,” the affidavit states.
Despite the school learning of the accusations in late September 2021, local law enforcement was not contacted until Oct. 27, according to the affidavit.
Jake Lilly, attorney for Grams, asked Gafari about a specific document created by one of the alleged victims on Sept. 25, 2021. Gafari confirmed that personnel at Summit School District asked one alleged victim to write a statement about the incident, which reportedly took place Sept. 23, 2021. After submitting the statement, it was subsequently sent back to the student because it focused more on the emotions caused by the alleged event rather than the event itself, and changes were made to the document, Gafari said.
Lilly also asked questions regarding a “slumber party” that might have happened with some of the alleged victims Sept. 24, 2021, but Gafari could not confirm details about who attended.
“In this case, despite numerous other witnesses or potential witnesses present outside of the four people in the friend group, there is literally no other witness where there absolutely should be witnesses,” Lilly said. “There is zero physical evidence. I mean zero physical evidence.”
It is not known when the judge’s ruling on whether the case will go to trial is expected. An arraignment for Grams is scheduled for Nov. 21.
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