The state’s case against Virgil Cleon Harper went to a Jury Wednesday after both sides presented closing arguments.
Harper, a substitute teacher in Azusa, is accused of nine counts of sexual molestation involving youngsters in his classroom.
Our reporter Bethania Palma attended Wednesday’s court session and interviewed Harper. These excerpts are from her story:
Deputy District Attorney Miji Vellakkatel<NO1>cq <NO>told the jury there was solid evidence Harper touched the 9-and-10-year-old boys and girls in a sexual manner.
“The truth lies in the evidence,” he said. “He touched a total of 17 body parts that are sexual in nature.
The fourth graders had stated Harper touched genital areas, rear ends, breasts and thighs, Vellakkatel said.
Defense attorney Victor Salerno said the accusations were false and added they resulted from peer pressure and a “snowball effect.”
Harper said he had been a teacher and substitute teacher for years in various settings, including high schools and colleges. At one point he taught at Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
He also worked as an adjunct professor at APU and served on the city’s architectural barriers commission.
Harper said he began teaching at grade schools about a year ago so he could get more hours.
He said if cleared of charges, he would not teach children again “unless there are cameras or another adult present.”