The jury at teacher Paul Mather’s upcoming sex abuse trial can’t be told that he once allegedly had sex with a 16-year-old, Judge Gary Haman ruled Monday.
However, Haman reserved the right to change his mind.
“There’s no question that it’s relevant,” the 1st District Court judge said of the alleged statutory rape. “But will that testimony deprive the man of a fair trial?”
Mather, 49, is accused of touching two Canfield Middle School students on the breasts and buttocks earlier this year.
The girls were ages 13 and 14. One girl and her parents recently filed a $2.5 million claim against the Coeur d’Alene School District for not preventing the alleged abuse.
Mather maintains his innocence, saying affectionate touches were misinterpreted.
According to police reports, Mather had intercourse in 1989 with a 16-year-old girl. The case did not go to trial because the girl decided not to testify against Mather.
The prosecution would like the jury to know of that incident because it suggests Mather has a history of getting sexual gratification from girls.
“That’s something the jury needs to know,” Deputy Prosecutor Lansing Haynes said during a Monday hearing.
But Mather’s lawyer argued that the alleged intercourse took place too long ago to be relevant, and was very different from the “improper touching” of which the teacher is now accused.
“It was not at school, she was not one of his students,” said attorney Tim Gresback.
Haman granted Mather’s request to keep testimony about the alleged rape out of the trial. But he said he would be willing to hear another request by the prosecution to present that information.
Mather’s trial is set for Dec. 16.
Meanwhile, one family is accusing school district officials of not keeping Mather away from girls when the administrators knew, or should have known, that Mather might abuse them.
The tort claim was filed Nov. 6 by attorney Paul Daugharty on behalf of the family. It seeks damages of $500,000 for the parents and $2 million for the girl, claiming emotional and physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, diminished quality of life and other problems stemming from the alleged abuse.
If the school district does not respond to the claim in 90 days, the family will be free to file a civil suit. The school board voted Nov. 11 to table the matter indefinitely.