Molestation case against music teacher dropped

San Francisco Chronicle

(03-24) 18:03 PDT LAFAYETTE -- Contra Costa County prosecutors dropped child-molestation charges Monday against a Lafayette music teacher who had been accused of assaulting three teenage boys, after a judge ruled that an investigator in the case had shown a "reckless disregard for the truth."

Prosecutors dropped the case against James Toland, 63, after Superior Court Judge John Sugiyama granted a defense motion to throw out evidence obtained under a warrant to search Toland's computers.

Sugiyama agreed with the defense that the Contra Costa sheriff's investigator had made misstatements and omissions in asking a judge to approve the search warrant.

The investigator reported that one of the alleged victims, a 15-year-old boy who took singing lessons from Toland, said the teacher had "grabbed his penis and buttocks and moved it around," said Ellen Leonida, an attorney for Toland.

But Toland had simply touched the boy's lower back and abdomen to adjust his posture, a standard technique in voice lessons, Leonida said. The boy was offended by Toland's actions, but the sheriff's investigator warped his statement with a false assertion that the teacher had touched the boy's genitals, the defense attorney said.

Prosecutors contend that the boy did report being molested, saying the incident was separate from being touched on the back or stomach.

Authorities said two other teenage boys had alleged that Toland molested them. Toland has taught choir and other music programs at Campolindo High School in Moraga, Acalanes High School in Lafayette and Miramonte High School in Orinda.

"We are, of course, gratified that the case has been dismissed, although the damage already done to Jim's reputation may be irreparable," Leonida said. "From the beginning, I have been confident of Jim Toland's innocence, and I sincerely hope that he can now put this painful chapter of his life behind him." [Ed: The public's respect for the veracity of law enforcement or, for that matter, the press is ill-deserved. This is one case where a judge had the integrity to reject police and D.A.'s attempts to railroad a defendant but there are many, many more defendants who have been wrongly accused and imprisoned for decades and for whom there was no justice.]

1 comment:

Michael R. Brown said...

I'm not familiar with your blog, but you might be interested in my report from the courtroom.

All charges against James Toland were dropped in court by the prosecution after the judge found that the investigating police officer - who had signed the original affidavit, which led to the search warrant - had acted with "reckless disregard for the truth." The investigator was found to have falsely reported a minor's testimony of a normal posture-adjustment in the course of a singing lesson as testimony of Toland's touching of genital areas and buttocks. Toland, an honorably-discharged veteran who served as an army medic in Vietnam and is disabled with spinal arthritis, had many supporters in the community including many parents of his minor students - about 50 supporters were present in court - and he is now free. He faces an uncertain future, however, as he taught for years at a number of public schools - without complaint - and now administrations may be wary of employing him regardless of his strong community support. Despite the judge's powerfully-worded ruling, the prosecution has characterized the investgation and prosecution as "ongoing."