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A disturbing civil lawsuit is raising eyebrows after the Los Angeles Unified School District successfully argued that a 14-year-old girl “knew what she was doing,” and was mature enough to consent to having sex with her 28-year-old teacherElkis Hermida.

In fact, Keith Wyatt, the school district’s attorney, blamed the child for her involvement, suggesting she take responsibility for the situation. According to SCPR:

During the three week civil trial, district lawyers denied that L.A. Unified had any knowledge of the relationship, argued the girl knew what she was doing when she chose to have sex with Hermida and suggested the girl was to blame for her situation, not LAUSD.

“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher,” said Keith Wyatt, L.A. Unified’s trial attorney in the case, in an interview with KPCC. “She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher. Why shouldn’t she be responsible for that?”

Yes, that happened.

It all started in December 2010, when 28-year-old Elkis Hermida, a math teacher at Thomas Edison Middle School in Los Angeles, began having sex with his 14-year-old student. The sexual relationship lasted six months. Hermida was convicted in 2011 of lewd acts against a child and sentenced to three years in state prison.

But last November during a three-week civil suit, the LAUSD lawyers argued that the girl consented to sex, even bringing her sexual history into the trial as part of their defense strategy.

The girl’s family filed a civil lawsuit against L.A. Unified, claiming the district was negligent and the experience had emotionally damaged the girl, endangering any future romantic relationships she might have.

Two legal experts sharply criticized the school district for using those tactics. They also said the case highlights a little-known conflict in California law: while the age of consent is firmly set at 18 in criminal cases, at least two appellate court rulings have found that in civil cases, it is possible to argue that a minor can consent to sex with an adult.

Wyatt, the attorney who suggested the girl was mature enough to consent, used a 2009 legal ruling by the U.S. District Court for California’s Central District that states minors can consent to sex in certain situations.

That ruling, in the case of Doe v. Starbucks, cited a 2001 decision by the California Supreme Court in a criminal case, People v. Tobias.  In Tobias, the supreme court argued that when the state legislature added the crime of  “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” to the penal code in 1970, the lawmakers “implicitly acknowledged that, in some cases at least, a minor may be capable of giving legal consent to sexual relations.”

In its Doe ruling, the District Court went on to cite another court decision as grounds for its conclusion that “the rule that ‘a minor may be capable of giving legal consent to sexual relations’ has been extended to non-criminal cases.”

The Doe and Tobias decisions left California law “horribly flawed,” said Jennifer Drobac, a law professor with Robert H. McKinley Law school at Indiana University who has studied consent laws nationwide, including the Doe v. Starbucks case.

California is one of several states where the criminal age of consent laws clash with the civil laws, according to Drobac, noting a minor can be a victim in a criminal case, but found at fault in a civil case related to the same crime.

Wyatt, however, isn’t changing his mind.

“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,'” Wyatt told KPCC.

In his closing argument during the civil trial, Wyatt maintained that the girl was pursuing the case for purely financial reasons.

“She wants to be paid for doing something that she knew was wrong, that she acknowledged was wrong, that she knew was from the beginning,” Wyatt argued, adding, “She doesn’t want therapy, she wants money. That’s what they are asking you for.”

[…]

In the end, the jury didn’t fill out the verdict form. It ruled in favor of LAUSD, accepting the district’s argument that it had no knowledge of the relationship and therefore was not at fault.

Talk about fucked up. For more on the civil case and the ridiculous tactics Wyatt’s team used to absolve the school district of any wrongdoing, click here.

SOURCE: SCPR | PHOTO CREDIT: California Department of Justice