Former teacher found not guilty in sexual contact case
August 16, 2017 06:29 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Jurors on Wednesday found a former Albuquerque teacher not guilty across the board on three counts of criminal sexual contact.
In closing arguments, the state tried to hit home that Kenneth Jehle allegedly targeted his 13-year-old student while the defense reminded jurors her story sounded inconsistent.
Jehle denied ever touching one of his seventh-grade female students inappropriately in 2014. The student alleged he did so on three occasions. Jehle was able to recall two of them on the stand.
"When I asked him if he knew where any of the other students were sitting, he didn't know," prosecutor Caitlin Dillon said. "You know why he knew exactly where Madison was sitting? Because he singled her out."
Still, Jehle maintained the only place he ever touched the student was accidentally on the shoulder. During closing arguments, the defense zeroed in on that female student's time on the stand.
"When Madison has been asked these questions at various stages, she doesn't say 'I don't remember," defense attorney Stephen Lane said. "She doesn't say "I don't know. She doesn't say 'I'm not sure. She answers the question, and the problem is the answers change.
After only about an hour and a half of deliberation, jurors made their unanimous decision. Jehle appeared emotional after the verdict was read.
But there was also plenty of emotional reaction from the former student's family.
"Right now she feels like she shouldn't have said anything," said the former student's mother, Nicole Fields. "She's like a victim all over again.
"I'm really disappointed. I feel the system failed my daughter."
The family had previously won a civil lawsuit against the Albuquerque Public School district, Jehle and two other administrators at the time. The lawsuit was not referenced during the trial.
"That was difficult because there were only three charges presented," Fields said. "There was a lot of stuff that wasn't brought up that should've been. There was a cuddle chair in place. This was a special ed classroom."
Fields also discussed how much impact the alleged incidents from three years ago have had on her daughter's life.
"She's got trust issues. She doesn't trust men. She hates school," Fields said. "This is the third school she's been to. It's changed her whole way of thinking."
Jehle does face seven additional charges involving sexual contact with a minor, sexual exploitation of children, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. That separate trial is scheduled to begin at the end of the month.
Updated: August 16, 2017 06:29 PM
Created: August 16, 2017 01:08 PM
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