Court Makes Finding of Factual Innocence In Case Of Chino School Teacher

The San Bernardino County Superior Court has made a finding of factual innocence in the case of former Chino Valley Unified School District teacher Roger Talley, whose heretofore successful career as an educator was cut short last year when he was accused of molesting one of his students at Walnut Avenue Elementary School.
The court has concluded there was no basis for that accusation.
The court’s ruling only partially diminishes the anguish and trauma Talley has weathered since February 9, 2012, when a sixth-grade student accused the fifth grade teacher of inappropriate touching. The district placed him on administrative leave at once and contacted the Chino Police Department. Detectives with that department, who did a cursory investigation of the matter and succeeded in having the student repeat the claim, arrested Talley on charges of lewd acts on a child.
Talley maintained his innocence but the matter devolved into a full-blown spectacle when parents of children attending the school began distributing photocopies of a newspaper report of his arrest.
In the meantime, the district attorney’s office reviewed the file on the Talley case prepared by the police department and undertook its own investigation, questioning the alleged victim, other students, teachers and parents. On February 27, 2012 deputy district attorney Jason Anderson concluded there were insufficient grounds to proceed against Talley in that there was “a lack of specificity” in the alleged victim’s description of what had occurred, that there was “no corroboration” of the alleged victim’s account and that any conceivable case lodged against Talley “could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.”
Nevertheless, with the atmosphere of rumor and accusation that persisted at Walnut Avenue Elementary and the hostility toward the school administration and Talley being voiced by some parents, the district resisted reinstating Talley and said that it was proceeding with its own investigation.
Though he had the backing of the Associated Chino Teachers, that organization limited to $20,000 the amount of money it would provide toward the legal effort to clear him and allow him to return to work. In April 2012, Talley acceded to resigning his teaching position. Tally, who began with the Chino Valley Unified School District in 2002 and was named Teacher of the Year at El Rancho Elementary School in 2004-05, has not worked as a school teacher since that time.
Talley retained attorney Marc Grossman, whose law firm filed a petition with the San Bernardino County Superior Court, seeking a review of the entire affair and a declaration of factual innocence
On July 5, the court entered a ruling of factual innocence relating to Talley.
Grossman said that despite the ordeal Talley had been put through, the outcome shows that “the system worked. I have to give credit to the way the DA handled this.”
In terms of the public’s perception, Grossman said people should bear in mind that there “are different standards at different stages of the law enforcement process.” Once the accusation was made, he said, the police department acted appropriately in that it was following a protocol that called for a standard of “suspicion or probable cause. After the student’s accusation, the police department applied the standard of probable cause, which is far below that of demonstration beyond any reasonable doubt. But the district attorney’s filing of cases should not be a mirror image of the bare minimum case presented by the police in their report. “
There was no plausible case against Talley, Grossman said. “There are reasons why there are issues with children testifying in court,” he said. “They often say things that are not true. They will often say things that their parents or other adults expect them to say or what they think they expect them to say. The gap in these standards allowed the investigative process to start, but the true circumstance would never have justified charges. The area Roger fell into was an extraordinary one. After the court looked at it, he was declared to be factually innocent, which means that by definition legally there was no reasonable cause to believe he committed the offense for which the arrest was made.  The district attorney’s office should be commended for exercising its own independent judgment.”
Talley has yet to reestablish the life he had before February 9, 2012.
“It is unfortunate for Roger,” Grossman said. “You cannot unring the bell. But he does not hold a grudge and he is trying to move forward with his life. He intends to get his teaching credential back and there is no reason he should not be teaching again.” Indeed Talley has now approached the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to make a further review of his situation, including the continuation of his licensing to teach. A ruling from that panel with regard to his continued eligibility to teach is anticipated after that panel’s investigative arm completes its review.

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