Year-old sex abuse cases still on hold

bortiz@herald-leader.comJuly 1, 2008 

It has been almost a year since two former Beaumont Junior High School teachers were dramatically arrested during the first day of trial in Carol Lynne Maner's high-profile sex abuse lawsuit in Lexington.

But little progress has been made in either teacher's criminal case.

As Maner took the witness stand the afternoon of July 11 in Fayette Circuit Court, news broke that former art teacher Roberta Walter, 62, (formerly Roberta Blackwell) and former science teacher Jack Russell Hubbard, 61, had been arrested in Nashville and Johnstown, Pa., respectively.

Both were accused in Maner's lawsuit against the Fayette School Board, which resulted in a $3.7 million civil judgement. Yet neither criminal case has been presented to a grand jury.

Madison County Commonwealth's Attorney David Smith took over the case in April.

Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson, whose office was originally assigned the case, said he had to recuse himself because the husband of a prosecutor in the office is related to one of the defendants.

Part of the delay is attributable to miscommunication within the office, Larson said.

Larson thought a prosecutor, Brad Bates, was going to write a letter transferring the cases. Bates thought Larson was going to do that. Months later, they discovered neither one had transferred them.

Maner said she's frustrated that nothing has happened in the cases. She says she feels as if she's gotten the run-around.

“I've made several regular phone calls, and have been passed around from person to person with no real answers,” Maner said.

Smith said his office is reviewing the tape of Maner's civil trial and is preparing to present the cases to a grand jury.

Maner said she's glad progress is finally being made.

“I certainly don't see this as just about me,” Maner said. “I see this as crimes that affected lots of children and lots of families.”

Walter is charged with third-degree sodomy and third-degree rape. She retired from the Fayette County school district in May 1998.

Hubbard, who left the district in 1981, is charged with one count of third-degree rape and four counts of first-degree sodomy.

Both of the accused are out of jail on bond.

Maner first came forward with the abuse allegations in August 2003 and accused the school district of concealing evidence of a clear pattern of sexual abuse by four teachers, a guidance counselor and an assistant principal at Beaumont and Lafayette High School during the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

The school board has denied wrongdoing. It said it had not been aware of the abuse allegations. The board is currently appealing the lawsuit verdict.

Reach Brandon Ortiz at (859) 231-1443 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1443.

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