Jury Votes to Acquit Fairfax Coach of Molestation in Ten Minutes

We have an interesting case here in my backyard in Fairfax County, Virginia. A Fairfax County jury deliberated only 10 minutes before acquitting Sean Lanigan, 43, a popular schoolteacher and coach of aggravated sexual battery and abduction. The jury’s reaction and the paucity of evidence in the case has led some to question why prosecutors brought the case in the first place. They were back within 47 minutes to find him innocent on all charges.

Lanigan was accused by a 12-year-old girl at Centre Ridge Elementary School in Centreville of picking her up in the school gym, carrying her into an equipment room, laying her down on a mat and massaging her shoulders and groping her. The married father of three denied the allegations and said he often picks up students and twirls them around like his own kids.

The girl’s testimony was contradicted by several witnesses, including testimony that there are no mats in the equipment room. The girl also admitted that she had a grudge against Lanigan for threatening to punish her for bullying of other kids. She also admitted on the stand that Lanigan did not actually ever touch her buttocks but in fact came into contact only with her upper leg.

The accuser’s best friend — another sixth-grade girl — also contradicted her testimony and said that she saw Lanigan pick up the alleged victim in fun and that he did not touch her inappropriately. She also testified that the alleged victim told her that they “needed to get their stories straight” immediately after the alleged incident.

Other classmates testified that the accuser “hated Lanigan” and boasted about “trying to sue the school for money.”

Jurors said that it actually took them just ten minutes to reach their unanimous verdict, which is remarkably short given the time needed to organize and tally votes. One juror Jacklyn West is quoted as saying “There was no evidence. There was no case.” Another juror added, “It was an easy decision. I just hope Mr. Lanigan can get his life back.” That remains to be seen. Fairfax school officials has said that, despite the speedy acquittal and lack of evidence, they could still bar him from returning. They say that they are examining the evidence in the case.

Others have questioned why the prosecution continued with witnesses contradicting the girl on so many points. There is also the issue of over-charging on the abduction claim. While prosecutors understandably do not want to drop a prosecution simply because it was a “he said/she said” case (after all, many molesters guarantee that abuse occurs without witnesses), this case involved contradicting witnesses, a prior hostility shown to the coach by the accuser, and direct contraction of other material facts in the police report — including the girl’s own recantation of part of the allegations.

Jurors tend to rule with prosecutors in molestation cases on the most circumstantial grounds. Such allegations paint the defendant in a dark light that is difficult to overcome for the defense. In this case, it took ten minutes to vote unanimously to acquit and less than an hour to end the case. That should carry weight with the Fairfax school officials in making their own decision whether to allow this popular teacher to return to work.

This case is a victory also for defense counsel Peter D. Greenspun.

Neighbors and friends helped the Lanigan family survive with free meals and other assistance during the long ordeal.

For the full story, click here and here.

19 thoughts on “Jury Votes to Acquit Fairfax Coach of Molestation in Ten Minutes”

  1. And that’s how they have you FFLEO.

    The proponents of the “everyone is a peadophile” hysteria know that folks are going to think exactly like you.

    This is how they win. Trouble is the rest of us lose, especially children.

  2. Maaarrhgk,

    I agree; however, I do not think we can or will ever return to similar ‘days of innocence’ I knew of as a kid in the 50s. Then, there was a lot of hugging and displays of affection towards children—actions now that are viewed with suspicion and almost immediately considered as sinister.

  3. How sad that such advice has to be offered Tootie. Not that I don’t understand exactly where you’re coming from.

    A damning indictment on the society we have allowed to be created.

  4. Never be alone with other peoples kid if you can avoid it. There needs to be other children or other adults with you.

  5. John & FFLEO.

    Sadly we are going to see much more of this sort of thing.

    We now have a “child protection” industry full of people who have well paid jobs to hang onto.

    The main trick of their trade is to induce mass paranoia and mob hatred of any one who does anything that upsets any child in any way.

    You will see more and more decent people being accused of “child molestation” and having their lives ruined.

    Meanwhile the evil oxygen theives who really do harm children will continue as usual because they know that those who work in the “child protection” industry do not like to be threatened when they turn up on the doorstep asking about a childs welfare.

    We have seen this sort of thing all too often in the UK. Another 8 year old starved and beaten to death, but where were social services?

  6. @Former Federal LEO
    This is also a true story. A local guy was in the papers charged with a sexual crime.

    A friend saw him in a restaurant & asked what it was all about.

    The guy replied loudly, so everyone heard, “At least you have the nerve to ASK before condemning me”

    He then went on to tell him about coming home to see his nephew on top of his daughter on the couch.
    So he grabbed the boy’s “little head” and ran him out the front door hanging onto him until he was outside.

    Well naturally that is what everyone saw, and so HE was charged with a ‘sex’ crime.

    But of course that wasn’t the picture painted by the news story they printed.


  7. FFleo,
    That is a sad story. I only wish Jim’s friends and fellow towns people could have seen beyond the allegations to the truth.

  8. lottakatz.

    Yep. Your Right. There’s a pervert on every corner. You’ve seeeeeeeeeeen them too.

  9. FFLeo:

    One of the reasons for our system is to protect people from this type of stigmatization from mere charges of misconduct. Jim’s is a sad story. I wish the system could also protect those wrongfully accused from small town small mindedness.

  10. This is a true account of an 80-year-old man I will call “Jim.” He was one of my niece’s grandfathers by marriage. Jim and his wife were married for almost 60 years and she was a good friend and confidant of my 86-year-old Mother. Jim was a very well respected family man, a devout Christian with great- grandchildren, and he lived adjacent to a small farming community where everyone knows everyone else. Sunday church service was a given for this pillar of the community.

    I only met Jim once, 4 years ago at a birthday party for one of his great-grandchildren who had turned 5-years-old. I was visiting my family, most of whom I had not seen in many years. I saw Jim standing quietly and smiling alongside his wife across the yard next to a finely set picnic table with a neat calico tablecloth. I asked my Mother, who is that man over there? Oh, that’s Jim! she said, the head of this clan; let me introduce you to him. I noticed Jim because, although he was clearly a very elderly man, his shirt and jeans were pressed to perfection with starched creases and his boots were spit shined like I once polished my military boots for inspection. He was a man who stood out in the crowd and it was evident that he had an abundance of self-respect and pride.

    I shook hands with Jim and we talked about our pasts, whenever little kids tugging at his trouser cuffs did not interrupt us while saying things like, we love you Pap Pa. The last thing I remember him saying was, “yep, I am responsible” for all of these beautiful youngins’”, when I made a comment about him helping to overpopulate the world.

    About two months later, I was on an annual vacation with my family and one of the first things my Mother and sisters told me was that Jim had died. I assumed it was of old age, although he seemed extremely healthy and mentally sharp for his age. Later that evening they told me what had happened and I was shocked.

    One of Jim’s young, prepubescent great-granddaughters had accused Jim of sexually molesting her. The girl has some sort of mental condition causing her to be “slow-witted.” However, Jim, recognizing her ‘condition’, showered her with extra attention, according to my relatives. During a visit to the her grandfather’s home, Jim apparently “blew on the little girl’s tummy,” which is a common thing in the South for parents/grandparents to do to their children. The great- granddaughter claimed that Jim touched her “boobie”, which at her age was just a nipple. Upon hearing this allegation, the girl’s father, Jim’s grandson, went to Jim’s home and almost beat the life out of the old man. The word of what Jim had allegedly done to his own granddaughter spread throughout the close nit, little community—and worse—it was a gossip topic among Jim’s close friends and fellow churchgoers.

    Following an investigation, the detective stated there was no basis for this allegation and the case would likely go no further. However, the damage was done. A highly respected man stood falsely accused of one of the most unspeakable, heinous crimes against one of his own family members.

    Not long after the incident, one early, spring evening while he was working/piddling around in his barn—his favorite place to be—Jim committed suicide with a rifle shot to his head. His beloved wife found him. The wife died of “natural” causes a few years after Jim’s suicide, although everyone close to her stated that she simply would not survive long without her life’s companion and that she only lived after Jim’s death for her great-grandchildren, whom she cherished.

    By all accounts, Jim was an exceptionally fine gentleman who simply could not live with the unbearable shame he felt—even though he was completely innocent—because several members of his close family and friends doubted his character for even the briefest period of time. Lastly, how could he ever again show the love and affection to any of his many grandchildren, that they all sought as evidenced by them tugging at his trouser cuffs while he and I were trying to talk that day, without the suspicion that *might* be raised by an innocent touch of grandfatherly affection…

    While I only knew Jim for perhaps 30 minutes, I mourn his death and its consequences because alleged child abuse represents a disturbing trend that is capable of destroying the lives of the most well meaning, decent people—those that the very children who make the false claims against often need the most for their own wellbeing.

  11. What the teacher did did not warrant the trial and justice was served by the acquittal but re-read the Professors article; there’s some creepy stuff going on in that gym.

    A 43 year old male gym teacher should not be picking up and carrying or “twirling” 12 year old girls. There doesn’t seem to be a denial that he massaged her only the statement that he didn’t come in “contact” farther up than her upper leg. Left un-repudiated that is suspicious to me but more info is needed; what kind of “contact” was actually going on. That’s way too familiar. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too familiar.

  12. Sounds like an ambitious DA. Abductions are the kinds of crimes that tug at liberal and conservative heartstrings and the idea that it’s a relative stranger (instead of the far more common family member) adds to this tableau.

  13. So the child was originally reprimanded by the teacher for bullying other students and then appears to have decided, with the the help of the prosecution, to bully the teacher.

    The verdict appears to be a another reprimand … I wonder if the child will now decide to bully the jury members?

    If the teacher can sue, I hope he does.

    This blog never fails to educate. I had never seen the word “paucity” and, although I could guess its meaning from the sentence in which it was used, I looked it up to find its origins

    “paucity” = “littleness” of numbers as in “a paucity of facts or studies” (first recorded in English in the 15th century, from the Middle English word “paucite,” and is ultimately derived from “paucus,” Latin for “little.”)

  14. This child need to be prosecuted for filing a false police report, attempted extortion as well as the prosecutor for MP.

    I hope a civil award is in the millions.

  15. I am glad that this teacher had a jury that listened and took the job seriously. I also have questions about the prosecution in this case. They could have dismissed the case prior to going to the jury after so many witnesses and facts contradicted the alleged victim’s story. Why did they even go to trial since they had to know what those witnesses were going to say?

  16. Too many cases like this in the UK too.

    The state no longer allows children to trust adults.

    Adults have lost their confidence around kids.

    If a youngster has a “wee accident” the Teacher can no longer clean them up and dress them in a pair of spare trousers as they would when I was a kid.

    They are not allowed to apply sun cream to far skinned kids.

    Nor are they allowed to clean and dress cuts and scrapes – you can totally forget the bit at the end about kissing it better!

    With this climate, it is no wonder that some little toe-rag can easily ruin a teachers career.

  17. What – no conviction?

    Why not just add additional charges until you get one?

    GULFPORT — A pharmacist found not guilty on 49 counts of drug-related charges in March is set for trial this week on charges that deadlocked a jury less than three months ago. But this time, Nick Tran faces additional charges. After jurors in a two-week trial reached an impasse on 11 charges, the U.S. attorney’s office obtained another indictment that lists 24 charges.

  18. Isabel, why can’t he sue them for malicious prosecution, defamation and all the other torts in this case?

    That went over my head

  19. This is just awful. Sounds to me like there was no case. I fault the prosecutors for possibly ruining this man’s life. Too bad he can’t sue them for malicious prosecution, defamation and all the other torts that would otherwise be available. I hope this guy gets his life back.

    I work with mentally disabled children in a respite center and because of cases like this, we are told not to hug or stroke children’s hair or let them sit in our laps. We are never left alone with a kid. There always has to be another adult care giver in the room. The grabbing kids and swinging them around wouldn’t be allowed, just because of fear of accusations of child molestation. It’s really a shame when you can’t even pat a kid on the head because you are afraid you would end up in jail. The worst thing is that these kids want affection and want to sit on your lap and you have to push them away.

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