Falsely Accused Teacher Sean Lanigan

A Fairfax County gym teacher was falsely accused of molesting a twelve-year old student who had a vendetta against him, and was prosecuted based on the flimsiest of evidence (basically, the word of the student who held a grudge, and her friend, with contrary eyewitness and physical evidence). It took a jury all of forty-seven minutes to acquit him. The Washington Post has the story here.

Two comments: (1) Given the facts related in the Post, this prosecution seems to show, at best, incompetence on the part of Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh. Unfortunately, it’s rare that any consequences follow from incompetence or even deliberate malfeasance by a prosecutor; (2) The Post declined to publish the accuser’s name because she’s “a minor.” Fiddle-faddle. She was mature enough to hatch a scheme that would send an adult to jail to satisfy a grudge against him. Adult misbehavior should have, if not adult consequences, at least consequences. And how are other adults to protect themselves from her accusations if she’s allowed to maintain anonymity?

UPDATE: The Post has an update to its story. Given the following, Detective Nicole Christian, the lead detective in the case, needs to be investigated and potentially disciplined:

But when others – staff, parents – tried to tell Christian anything she didn’t want to hear, she threatened them with prosecution for obstruction of justice, the staff members and parents said. School district investigator Steve Kerr’s investigative report, written after Lanigan’s acquittal, confirmed those claims, noting that: “Because of the jury’s decision, the detective [Christian] advised that she will not pursue criminal charges against [staff member] or [staff member].”

Wow! Christian also refused to listen when the accuser’s friend and co-accuser tried to recant.

The Post also explains its decision not to print the accuser’s name. I’d find its reasoning far more persuasive if it would also decline to print suspects’ names.

Finally, the update makes Fairfax County prosecutors, especially Christian, look even worse than the original story, and the case even weaker.

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