Former Summit Middle School gym teacher testifies in his own trial on sexual assault charges

Leonard Grams, 62, said he did not touch any of the three students who testified earlier in the trial that he sexually assaulted them when they were about 13

Summit Middle School teacher Leonard Grams, 62, was arrested Aug. 9, 2022, on several charges of sexual assault of a child.
Summit County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

A former Summit Middle School gym teacher accused of sexual assault took the witness stand in his own trial in Summit County court Tuesday, Sept. 26, as the defense rested its case.

Leonard Grams, 62, has pleaded not guilty to five Class 4 felony charges of sexual assault on a child and three Class 3 felony charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, according to court records.

Grams testified that he never touched — intentionally or unintentionally — the three former students who have accused him of sexual assault. Judge Karen Romeo advised Grams of his right to testify or remain silent and that if he remained silent the jury could not use that against him.

Over the course of the trial, three of Gram’s former students — who were identified in court as J1, J2 and J3 to protect their identity — testified that Grams sexually assaulted them when they were about 13 years old.

Last week, the prosecution called J1, J2 and J3 to testify and all three identified Grams in the courtroom as the individual who sexually assaulted them.

In presenting the prosecution’s case, Deputy District Attorney Lauren Crisera played video recordings of forensic interviews conducted with each of the alleged victims in November 2021 as well as audio of interviews that Summit School District human resources officials conducted with J1 and J2 in October 2021.

In testimony, her forensic interview and her interview with human resources, J1 alleged that Grams touched her breast during a “high five frenzy” in a class he taught in September 2021, when she was in eighth grade.

But Grams testified Tuesday that he never touched J1. While he said he did participate in the frenzies with students, he had a short lunch break after the class J1 was in so he would often rush out.

“At no time did I ever run my hand across J1’s breast,” Grams said.

It never happened by accident, either, Grams testified, adding, “If something like that happened, I’d apologize.”

In testimony, her forensic interview and her interview with human resources, J2 alleged that Grams touched her butt on two separate occasions when she was in eighth grade around September 2021. J2 took a different class than J1 was in.

The first time J2 says Grams touched her was when she was spotting others during a climbing activity where students helped pull and boost each other over a wall. She testified Grams came up behind her, pushed his stomach and body against her back and that he reached down and put his right hand on her butt.

Grams testified Monday that that did not happen. The defense displayed a photo of a previous class doing the team wall activity that showed students scrunched together with their arms raised while spotting the climber.

Grams testified that the only day J2’s class did the wall was Sept. 23, the same day a challenge course inspector, Tom Leahy, also observed that class. Grams said at one point a student was struggling to get up the wall so he stepped forward to help. J2 was at the back of the group but he did not touch her butt, he said.

Being 6 feet, 2 inches tall, Grams said he can easily reach above students to spot a climber. Leahy previously testified he saw Grams step forward to help a struggling student during the brief time he observed the team wall activity, but never saw him inappropriately touch J2.

The second time J2 alleges Grams touched her is during a climbing activity involving a harness. All of the buckles and safety features were on the front of the harness, not the back, but she said Grams came up behind her, yanked up her sweatshirt, grabbed her butt, yanked her sweatshirt back down and walked away without saying anything, J2 said.

Grams testified that he inspects every student’s harness when they are hooked up and about to climb. A former student and family friend of Grams’ also testified on Tuesday that he did a safety check before every student climbed in the class.

“Safety is everything in the class,” Grams said, noting that students are climbing on ropes courses that are inherently dangerous. When asked why he checks every students’ harness, he said, “I’m the one responsible for my students’ safety.”

Grams said he moved J2’s long sweatshirt out of the way and yanked on the back loop of her harness, as he did every student about to climb, but he added that he would have said something verbally to her before doing this. He said he did not touch her butt.

“No. I did not touch her at all anywhere,” Grams said.

In testimony and in her forensic interview, J3 alleged Grams also touched her butt on two occasions while she was in seventh grade during the 2020-21 school year. She said the first time Grams touched her butt was in the fall, when he swept his hand over it while she was on his team helping demonstrate a game for the class.

Grams testified he does not remember choosing J3 for a demonstration. He said he did not touch her butt and that he doubts he would have chosen her for a demonstration because she was not necessarily the most motivated student.

The second time J3 says Grams touched her was several months later, during a quiz when students had to do pushups for getting a question wrong. This time, Grams came up behind her and grabbed her butt, causing her to shout “f— off” at him, J3 said.

Grams said this did not happen. He said there is an activity where students would do pushups when getting a quiz answer wrong, but that activity took space in a classroom where he would always be typing while his computer was connected to the projector.

The students were spread out at desks separated about 6 feet apart due to COVID, and there would have been little room to move around that classroom while students were beside their desks doing pushups, Grams testified. If a student yelled at him or shouted “f— off,” he would likely have them removed from the classroom, he said.

The defense also called former Summit Middle School counselor Maureen Flannagan and the school’s former Principal Greg Guevara to testify Tuesday. Both described the timeline of the investigation by the school into the allegations.

Flannagan and Guevara were granted “use immunity” for their testimony in the Grams trial, as both are facing a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect stemming from the accusations students raised. Two former Summit School District human resources employees also face the same misdemeanor charge. Their cases are all pending.

The Grams trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.

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