Judge acquits teacher of sexually assaulting student

September 21, 2012 - All News

A judge has acquitted a Toronto teacher of sexually assaulting a former student when he was 15.
Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon delivered his verdict Friday.
The complainant “may have been telling the truth” but his evidence was inconsistent, both internally and with some of the facts, McMahon said
“It is unsafe in law to base a conviction on his evidence,” the judge said.
Outside the court, defence lawyer Peter Brauti said his client was “incredibly relieved this case is over.”
However, Brauti noted, “the damage that it’s done to her, her family, her reputation, regardless of the fact the fact she was acquitted today … will be difficult to recover from, if ever.”
Gowans did not answer questions about whether she plans to return to teaching, but Brauti said he doubts she will. “The whole thing has been such a negative experience,” he said.
Gowans told reporters she was “very glad that this is over.
“It has been a very, very difficult week,” she said, her voice trembling.
“The last three years of my life have been virtually destroyed because of these allegations.
“I’m glad it’s over, but at the same time I have the task of rebuilding my life.”
She then thanked her supporters, including her family and friends. “Just let everybody know I didn’t do anything wrong,” she added.
Outside the court, the youth refused to answer the Star’s questions, but his mother said the family still believes him. “I believe she was lying,” she said “We’re disappointed with the verdict but we believe our son, and Ms. Gowans can live with her lies.”
While McMahon found the teacher to be largely credible, he said Gowans showed poor judgment in getting so close to her former pupil, and could not accept that she had no idea the boy was sexually obsessed with her.
McMahon said he was troubled by the number of text messages they exchanged, and the fact that the teen was the first person she texted both Christmas morning and New Years day.
Gowans, 43, a former elementary school teacher with the Toronto public board, pleaded not guilty to sexual interference and sexual assault of her former student in late 2009 and January 2010.
The maximum penalty for each offence is 10 years.
The teenager, now a tall 18-year-old college student who cannot be named, said he and Gowans grew close when she taught him Grade 8 French.
After he left for high school, she hired him as a babysitter for her two children and he returned to the elementary school to help her with after-class athletic activities.
The teenager claimed she flirted with him, wore skimpy outfits when they jogged and once showed him her breasts through a wet T-shirt in payment of a bet.
Starting November, 2009, they had at least five intimate encounters in her home while he was babysitting her son and daughter, he said. Typically she would straddle him and expose her breasts and they would French kiss, he testified last week.
Twice he touched her private parts with her permission, but she soon stopped him because she said it felt wrong, he said.
Gowans took the stand to deny it all. The only sexual encounter happened when he grabbed her crotch while trying to kiss her on Jan. 5, 2010, she said.
The shocked teacher immediately barred from her house, she said.
But the youth told his sister his version of events eight days later, leading his mother to contact police on Jan. 18.
Gowans said police came to arrest her that day in front of her two children, and her life was completely destroyed.
The allegations ended her marriage of 17 years and led to her suspension from the Toronto District School Board, she testified.
She later resigned.
The Crown pointed to the more than 2,000 text messages from November 2009 to Jan. 10, 2010. She said they were innocent, dealing mainly with babysitting and scheduling issues.
But the boy said the text messages were often sexual. None of the messages have been retained.
His mother and sister testified they saw a text message from Gowans to him at 8:26 a.m. Christmas morning 2009, saying “Christmas came early, babe” accompanied by a winking face. Both thought the message disturbingly sexual.
Gowans said she didn’t recall sending it but added if she did it would have been a harmless joke. She called everyone babe, she said.
— Torstar News Service