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LAUSD Lawyer Canned For Blaming Minor For Sex With Teacher Got His Gig Back
An LAUSD attorney who was fired last November for comments arguing that a 14-year-old girl consented to sex with a male teacher is working for the district again. During a civil trial last November, attorney W. Keith Wyatt told KPCC, "Making a decision as to whether or not to cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that's a much more dangerous decision than to decide, 'Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher.'" This was in reference to a civil suit brought against the district by the family of a female student who was 14 when her 28-year-old male teacher began a six-month-long sexual relationship with her. LAUSD severed ties with Wyatt after those statements came out, and at the time, LAUSD General Counsel Dave Holmquist called Wyatt's statement "completely inappropriate."
Now, less than a year later, Wyatt has his old gig back. Holmquist said the district has brought on Wyatt and his firm—Ivy, McNeill & Wyatt—for a total of five upcoming cases, the L.A. Times reports. Two will take place in February, and three take place in June. Holmquist said Wyatt's interaction with the cases is "pretty minimal"—Wyatt has billed them $4,500 so far—and cited the district's long history with the firm as the reason for choosing to work with them again.
"They have done outstanding legal work. We should not deny work to that firm because of what one particular lawyer did and said," Holmquist said.
Holmquist also said the firm "learned from their mistakes" to not speak to journalists without permission from the district.
Elkis Hermida was a math teacher at Thomas Edison Middle School in Southeast L.A. until he was caught carrying on an inappropriate sexual relationship with the 14-year-old student. He was 28 at the time. Hermida was convicted of lewd acts against a minor in July of 2011 and sentenced to three years in prison. The girl's family filed a civil suit against LAUSD claiming negligence, and the district's attorneys argued that she was partly to blame and that the sex was consensual because the girl took steps to hide the relationship from her parents. They also tried to use her past sexual history as evidence. The girl's lawyer, Holly Boyer, argued that Hermida had groomed the girl for abuse, by first approaching the girl via social media when she was 13, and then steering the conversation to sex, framing those conversations as "secrets." Hermida next kissed the girl in his classroom before moving their relationship to area motels.
"People in positions of authority use their position to build relationships of trust and slowly introduce sex to get the child to acquiesce. To then point to the child and say 'you let it happen' is really crazy," Boyer said.
A jury previously found that LAUSD wasn't negligible, but that ruling was overturned by the state Court of Appeals because of the defense team's tactics. In September, a judge ruled that LAUSD couldn't argue that the girl was partly to blame, nor could they admit the girl's sexual history as evidence. Governor Brown also signed into law SB14 in July, which prohibits defendants in civil suits where a minor has been sexually abused from arguing that the sex was consensual—a legal loophole that previously fixed the age consent at 18 in criminal cases, but not in civil ones.