As a California child molestation attorney, we–at the Law Office of Anthony DeMarco–pay attention to all child sex abuse cases. And the case below really caught our attention. In fact, we find it shocking. Not only did the case happen right here in Los Angeles, it “expanded” the contexts of what child molestation is in our schools. Anthony DeMarco was interviewed by NBC News reporter Miram Hernandez about his expert view on this particular LAUSD child molestation case.
Los Angeles School District Teacher Molests Student
In 2011, a math teacher at Thomas Edison Middle School had more on his mind than his daily lessons. Elkis Hermida, who worked for the Los Angeles School District at the time, sexually abused one of his 8th grade students. Like most cases of child molestation, Hermida’s interactions with his student began as a “friendship.” In this case, Hermida simply invited the 13-year old girl to be his “friend” on an online social media forum. After establishing comfort with the girl outside of the classroom, Hermida started sending sexually suggestive messages to her. We call this type of behavior “grooming.” Within a few months, Hermida physically molested the young girl in his classroom.
What we find in many of the cases that we represent at the Law Office of Anthony DeMarco, is that the children don’t intuitively know what molestation is. This naiveté presents an opportunity for the “trusted adult” to trick their child victims into thinking that the special attention they’re receiving is good. In this case, Hermida hugged and kissed the girl in his classroom which was a comfortable place for the student already. Then he manipulated her into “agreeing” to more advanced sexual interactions.
By the middle of the school year, Hermida was taking the 8th grader off campus to have sex with her. The second time he raped her, was in his classroom. He continued to sexually molest the young girl, using his status as a trusted adult to manipulate her. After having sex three or four times with her teacher, the young girl felt trapped. She didn’t think that she was free to tell her adult math teacher that she didn’t want to continue having sex with him. As with most child molestation cases, the details get more and more explicit. According to the court records, when the poor girl finally objected to Hermida and refused to have anal sex with him, he sexually accosted her by “inserting something into her anus anyway.”
Thomas Edison Middle School Teacher Pleads No Contest To Sexual Abuse Charges
Thankfully the young 8th grader had a friend who decided to say something. By the end of the school year, the girl’s friend informed another teacher at Thomas Edison Middle School of the “relationship” between Hermida and his student. Hermida was promptly reported, arrested, and charged for molesting the young girl. He pleaded “No Contest” to the charges and received a three year prison sentence.
The girl’s family hired a California child molestation attorney and sued the Los Angeles Unified School district for negligence.
The Shocking Civil Trial Against LAUSD
What makes this case so interesting to us is that the LAUSD actually fought the case. Instead of accepting responsibility for one of their employees–in this case a Math teacher–sexually molesting an unassuming little girl, the LAUSD hired a defense team. It is what the defense team did that makes this case stand out. LAUSD’s lawyers argued that the little girl was, at least, partial responsible for being sexually abused by her teacher!
And the LAUSD won! The court accepted the School District’s arguments that:
- Child victims of sexual abuse are less traumatized if, at the time of the abuse, the child has or has had prior sexual experiences.
- The more “aware” that a child is about having sex with an adult, the more culpable the child is for allowing the act to occur.
- The use of sexual slang to describe sex implies “awareness” and sexual sophistication.
- Minors can consent to sex.
The Defense Attorney
It always amazes us to see how sex abuse defense attorneys try to argue that their clients are not responsible. But this particular case stands out among all the rest. In addition to the above legal arguments, LAUSD defense attorney W. Keith Wyatt made some rather shocking remarks on our local public radio station KPCC about the case. He said on the radio that crossing the street requires more maturity from a 14-year old than deciding to have sex with her teacher. The comment sparked public outrage which resulted in the LAUSD firing Wyatt for what they called “completely inappropriate,” comments.
But, in another bizarre twist, the LAUSD then proceeded to rehire Wyatt and his firm! The LAUSD, downgrading their previous action against Wyatt to a “suspension” rather than firing him. As a spokeswoman for the school district notes, Wyatt successfully defended LAUSD five times already.
Helping Survivors Win Against the Big Organizations
This case demonstrates how fickle the administrations of large organizations are. First, they blame a child for being sexually abused, then they fire the lawyer who won their case for them because of public opinion, then they rehire him since he’s saving them so much money in the courts. We deal with this type of legal work everyday at the Law Office of Anthony DeMarco. The Thomas Edison Middle School/Elkis Hemida case demonstrates how big money and established organizations easily ignore the victims of sexual abuse. We understand how these types of institutions work. We also understand how defense attorneys try to use the law to twist the facts. It takes a very specialized child molestation attorney to beat the types of arguments that Wyatt and his firm presented to the court. Anthony DeMarco is the type of California child molestation attorney who can win cases like this.