Jury trial for Summit Middle School teacher accused of sexual assault appears ready to move forward this month
The indictment of several current and former Summit School District employees last month threw a wrench in the case. But a last-minute deal between the defense and prosecution appears likely to keep the trial on schedule.
A jury trial for a former Summit Middle School physical education teacher accused of sexual assault is scheduled to begin this month after a last-minute agreement was conditionally made between the defense and prosecution to keep it on track.
Leonard Grams 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. His two-week trial is scheduled to begin April 26.
The charges stem from allegations of sexual contact raised in the fall of 2021 by three middle school students who had classes with Grams, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant filed in the case.
The allegations include that Grams touched a student’s breast during a “high five frenzy,” rested his hand on another student’s butt on two separate occasions involving climbing activities and touched a third student’s butt while she was doing pushups, the affidavit states. He taught at the school for 28 years, according to court documents.
The school district placed Grams on leave in October 2021. Police arrested him last year on Aug. 9, and he submitted his resignation to the school on Aug. 31.
Last month, with less than two months before the scheduled start to the trial, the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced that three Summit County School District employees and one former employee had been charged with failure to report child abuse.
Summit Middle School Principal Greg Guevara, Summit Middle School counselor Maureen Flannagan, human resources specialist Amanda Southern and former human resources director Grant Schmidt each face a single charge of failure to report child abuse, a Class 3 misdemeanor, related to allegations students brought forth in the Gram’s case.
On Monday, April 3, Gram’s lawyers, Jake Lilly and J.B. Katz, argued that the trial should be continued since the defense had planned to call the four charged with failure to report child abuse as witnesses.
Describing Guevara and Flannagan as “critical witnesses,” Lilly argued the charges against them make them legally unavailable, dramatically changing the defense’s trial strategy. He described human resources specialist Southern and Schmidt as “important” witnesses to the defense.
But Deputy District Attorney Lauren Crisera said the alleged victims do not want the case to drag out and want the trial to move forward as soon as possible.
Judge Karen Romeo initially granted the defense’s motion to continue but later stayed the motion to allow the prosecution until the next day to propose another solution to keep the trial on schedule.
During a continuance of the hearing on Tuesday, April 4, Crisera said the prosecution would grant “use immunity” to Guevara and Flannagan so long as the trial does not get delayed. Use immunity is a type of immunity granted by the prosecution guaranteeing that the testimony of the witness will not be used as evidence against him or her in court.
The defense agreed to allow the trial to move forward in April with use immunity for Guevara and Flannagan, though the two have yet to be consulted on whether they will accept use immunity.
Lilly noted that Guevara and Flannagan’s lawyers might seek transactional immunity — a broader form of immunity which would protect them from prosecution for the alleged offenses involved — rather than use immunity.
Based on the agreement, Judge Romeo denied the motion to continue the trial she had previously granted and set a hearing for Friday, April 7, where the court hopes to consult with Guevara and Flannagan’s lawyers regarding the prosecution’s use immunity offer.
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