Md. Deaf School Aide Guilty of Sex Abuse Counts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Close-up of a gavel and its sound block

    A Howard County jury convicted a former aide at the Maryland School for the Deaf on Wednesday of sexually abusing two middle-school girls.

    The jury cleared 38-year-old Clarence Taylor III of one count of sexual abuse on its third day of deliberations, but was unable to reach a verdict on four of the seven counts of sexual abuse.

    Taylor denied the girls' allegations that he touched their breasts or buttocks, and kissed two of them on the lips, while working as a boys' dormitory aide in Columbia from 2008 to 2011.

    Prosecutors said Taylor used hugs and elaborate handshakes as opportunities to brush his hands and arms across the girls' private parts.

    As the guilty verdicts were read and relayed to Taylor by an American Sign Language interpreter, he slowly shook his head back and forth. His bail was revoked and Taylor was handcuffed and taken to the county jail. Sentencing was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31 and a retrial on the four counts the jury deadlocked on was set for May 12.

    The jury appeared to struggle Tuesday with deliberations, sending three notes to Circuit Judge William Tucker. The contents of the messages weren't disclosed. After the third note, Tucker instructed the panel to work toward a unanimous decision.

    The state's case lacked physical or video evidence of the alleged abuse, and prosecutors said investigators could no longer retrieve text messages from cellphones. The prosecution relied largely on the girls' testimony and a videotaped police interview with Taylor.

    One girl testified that Taylor exposed himself to her in the school library, but she hadn't mentioned that to police.

    In his December police interview, Taylor, a married father of four, seemed to acknowledge he touched some of the girls' buttocks and breasts by accident in a crowded hallway. But at the trial, Taylor, who is deaf, testified that ASL interpreters failed to accurately relay his answers to investigators. On the witness stand, he denied ever touching any of the girls' private parts. He said the girls had lied.

    Defense attorney Brandon Mead suggested the girls conspired to get Taylor in trouble. In his closing argument, Mead said the state hadn't shown that Taylor derived any sexual gratification from the alleged acts.

    During the trial, which began Oct. 28, prosecutors dropped charges alleging Taylor had asked three of the girls for naked pictures of themselves. Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Broten said prosecutors weren't sure they could prove that occurred in Howard County.