Sunday, July 30, 2017

Afternoon of Day 2: Trial of MCPS Cloverly Elementary School Teacher John Vigna

The trial of MCPS Cloverly Elementary School teacher John Vigna was not covered by the media. The Parents' Coalition is providing the public with notes from the trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court.  
This is not a transcript.  
The trial was before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton. 

Here are notes from the afternoon of day two of the trial, June 7, 2017.

June 7, 2017

1:58 Trial resumes:

State plays VIDEO of interview of Witness # 1 by Montgomery County Tree House Child Advocacy Center to the jury:
Witness #1 says that there is a 3rd grade teacher who touches our butts when we hug him and makes us sit on his lap.  His name is Mr. Vigna.  Happened for the first time in 2nd or 3rd grade. Last time was 2 or 3 days ago.  He is sitting in his office chair when she hugs him. Sat on his lap week or two ago.  Makes me sit on his lap.  He pulled me on his lap to watch video.  His hands are on my legs when sitting on his lap.  His hands go up and down her legs.  When sitting on his lap she feels something hard, feels something hard on his body touching her butt.  She and Witness #2 are the students that sit on Mr. Vigna's lap.  She told counselor yesterday about this.  She didn't think it was that bad until she learned about assault and harassment at school. She told teacher about this.   
Had Mr. Vigna in 3rd grade.  In 1st grade class was brought to Mr. Vigna because they were being loud. Mr. Vigna passed by her and touched her butt with his hand.  She was at back of line.  Hugging at end of day started in 4th grade because he was a really good teacher.  One day she said good-bye to him and he asked for a hug.  Middle of 4th grade he had her start sitting on his lap.  The third graders would dance after announcements.  He had her sit on his lap and watch the 3rd graders dance.  He would pull her on his lap.  Her back was to him and her legs were on either side of him.  His hands move on her legs.  Occasionally she feels something hard on his lap.  He is breathing very hard when she is on his lap.  When she tries to get off his lap, he pulls her back on.  She stays on his lap until his bus is called. She asks her classroom teacher if she can go to Mr. Vigna's class at the end of the day.  Lights are off when students are watching video at end of day and the classroom door is closed.  She went to bathroom and left door open, he got up and closed it again.  Has sat on his lap 4 or 5 times in 5th grade. Does not think other kids saw her on his lap.  Kids were watching video.  Always sat on his lap when he was at his desk.   
Gives her candy and packs of goldfish almost every day.  Snacks are only given to kids that come to visit him.  Then his own students complain that they do not get any snacks like the kids that come to visit him get.     Mr. Vigna teaches disabled kids Bocce at Paint Branch.  Pulls her by hips to come and sit on his lap and says come here.  He did touch her butt a lot and it made her feel uncomfortable, but she just went with it.  Thought maybe he was doing something illegal and he would get in trouble for it. There have been times when it was just her and Mr. Vigna alone in his class when she was going to an after school club.  When she said good-bye to him, he touched her butt.  She walked in to classroom and saw no one was there and she turned around to leave and he said come here I want a hug and then he touched her butt.  Mr. Vigna would put his hand on top of her legs and rub them from her knees to her waist.  Breathing is different when she is sitting on his lap.  When she is not on his lap his breathing is normal.  The longer she is on his lap the heavier his breathing gets. 

Cross examination of  Witness Sara Kulow-Malave

Forensic Interviewer with Montgomery County Tree House Child Advocacy Center

She is sole forensic interviewer for county agencies.  Forensic interviews are designed to be used in courtrooms.  Defense attorney says some techniques of questioning are discouraged for these types of interviews. Defense attorney says leading questions are discouraged.  
Defense attorney asks if she considers herself as an advocate for the children she comes in contact with.  Ms. Kulow-Malave answers that she is an advocate and then says she is a neutral party.  She says she is there to make the children feel comfortable so they will share whatever they have to share. 
Rapport building, topic of concern method used.  E is exploration of details and Closure.  
Ms. Kulow-Malave says it is not uncommon for there to be inconsistencies in the statements of the people she interviews. 
There were inconsistencies in the statements from Witness #1 and Witness #2.  Her job is to gather the information.  Says her job is not to attempt to identify if there is any collusion.  No indication that they were not exposed to normal aspects of society that any other 10 year old would be exposed to. 
It would be a fair statement that there was a delay in reporting in this case.  Sometimes she will ask what finally made them come forward. 
Defense attorney asked why she did not explore if there could have been something in Mr. Vigna's pocket (car keys, wallet, cell phone).  Defense attorney noted that she did not have a diagram of someone sitting with clothes on.  She used picture of anatomically correct naked male standing. 
Defense attorney discussed verbal queues that showed verbal collusion between Witness #1 and Witness #2. 
Witness had characterized Mr. Vigna as rude, but also said he was one of the best teachers in school - did she ask about that?  She said no. 
Defense attorney noted that witnesses were not under oath when they were interviewed in the videos. Defense attorney noted that she did not mention truthfulness in beginning of interview. 
State's Re-Direct of Witness Sara Kulow-Malave:
Her job is just to conduct interview.  She does not do any investigation. State went over transcript.
Defense asked one more question from transcript. 

State calls Witness #5:
11 year old, 5th grade student, former Cloverly Elementary School student. 
Witness #5 had Mr. Vigna for 3rd grade.  Sometimes it was good to be in his class, sometimes it wasn't.  Sometimes he touched me on my vagina.  Sometimes at his desk, sometimes at back table. It happened more than one time, less than five times. Touched chest, butt and vagina.  It would happen during school day. Told her mother what was happening with Mr. Vigna when she was in 4th grade. 
Would be sitting in Mr. Vigna's lap while watching the Promethean Board.  Other students would be sitting on carpet watching video on Promethean Board. They were facing away from Mr. Vigna's desk.  When she was sitting on his lap he would move his leg up and down.  She would sit on his lap a lot. 
Mr. Vigna would kiss her on her head about once a month.  Mr. Vigna would ask for kisses on his cheek. She was a bus rider. Other students would be around at the end of the day.  

Defense Cross examination of Witness #5:

Sometimes she would go behind Mr. Vigna's desk and help him clean his desk when his desk got messy. Defense attorney had Witness #5 mark on diagram where she would sit on Mr. Vigna's lap and where other students were in the classroom.  When she would go to the reading table she did not take her work.  The other students would work.  Sometimes she would sit with the other students on the carpet.
She was in Mr. Vigna's 3rd grade class.  23 students were in the class.  Mr. Vigna kissed her on the top of her head. He kissed her head two times.
Defense attorney asked why she waited until 4th grade to tell about Mr. Vigna in 3rd grade? She said she was scared to tell. 
She said no other teachers were in the classroom during reading time.
There was a helper in the classroom. The helper was an adult.
Defense attorney asked Witness #5 if she knows what an accident is.  Defense attorney asked how Witness #5 knew that when Mr. Vigna touched her it was not an accident? 

State calls Witness #6:
9 year old, 4th grade, former Cloverly Elementary School student, sister of Witness #5
Mr. Vigna was her reading teacher in 3rd grade.  Had reading class every day in the morning. She had to go to his classroom.  She liked it in the beginning, but then did not like being in the class.  She did not like when he began touching her butt and her vagina.  She was at the back table.  She would be right next to Mr. Vigna, he would start moving closer to her, he would start touching her butt and vagina.  Mr. Vigna would ask her to go to the back table. He would touch her a lot of the times. 
He told her he would drive by her house in the summer and knew she was camping because their camper was not there.  He would call her mom a cutie pie and then his face would turn red.  He would kiss her on her cheek and on her forehead.  He would hug her. While he was touching her butt and vagina he would lean in and hug her.  He would have her kiss him on his cheek.  He would touch her over top of her clothes. 
She told her friends in 3rd grade what was happening with Mr. Vigna.  She felt more and more uncomfortable so she told her friends.  She wanted them to know.  She told her mother about what happened with Mr. Vigna in the summer when she asked her about Mr. Vigna.    
Defense Cross examination of Witness #6
Defense has Witness #6 diagram where she sat in Mr. Vigna's room.  Witness #6 described how reading groups worked.  She did not say anything about this until next year.  She says sometimes Mr. Vigna would be in his rocking chair. Did not talk to her sister about it.  Told some of her friends during her birthday party in June.  Defense attorney says she has talked to a lot of people since she told her mother.  Deffense attorney said Mr. Vigna was friendly when he talked about her mom and her family.

Court recessed for day and will resume on June 8, 2017. 

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