JUST IN: LA police say Esquith could face one juvenile crime charge
Mike Szymanski | December 17, 2015
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The Los Angeles police department is moving toward charging celebrated teacher Rafe Esquith with one count of inappropriate touching of a juvenile, LA School Report has learned.
The single charge could come within a few weeks after being reviewed by the city attorney and U.S. district attorney’s offices, said LAPD Captain Julian Melendez, head of the juvenile division of the police department.
“The results came from information passed on to us by the LAUSD investigation, and we conducted our own interviews and investigation,” Melendez told LA School Report.
Esquith was LAUSD’s most renowned teacher, winner of national and international awards, author of books about teaching and founder of the Hobart Shakespeareans at the school where he taught, Hobart Elementary. LA Unified took Esquith out of his classroom in April and held him in the daytime “teacher’s jail” while the school’s Student Safety Investigation Team found other allegations and used them to dismiss Esquith.
Attorney Mark Geragos filed a $1 billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of Esquith and other teachers against LAUSD to stop the teacher jail practice. That lawsuit alleges that teachers were deprived of pension and health benefits by forced resignation or unfair dismissal by the district.
Ben Meiselas of Geragos’s office denied all of the charges against Esquith and said LAUSD continues “an obvious witch hunt.” He pointed out that no student or parent has ever made any allegations against the teacher. He also said that several former students have hired attorneys and will be bringing lawsuits against LAUSD for the harassment and abuse inflicted on them by LAUSD investigators.
Neither Meiselas nor Geragos could be reached for comment about the possible criminal charges against Esquith.
When LAPD detectives looked into the district’s allegations they found that some of the potential charges were beyond the statute of limitations, and some of the witnesses refused to give statements, Melendez said.
Melendez said that his department would not be investigating any potential monetary fraud or inappropriate emails that were also mentioned in the LAUSD documents for reasons of Esquith’s dismissal.
Melendez acknowledged that the investigation initially started from a complaint of a reading from a passage of Mark Twain‘s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and that led to other allegations.
The police department said that officers tried to speak to Esquith’s attorney Geragos, but found that he was on vacation.
An LAPD spokesperson said the department would most likely issue a press statement when the charge is filed.