Teacher denies sex abuse

January 08, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A 29-year-old teacher told an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury yesterday that he never sexually abused one of his students, but that he is a "touchy feely kind of person" who at times may have rubbed the youth's shoulders and back.

Mark A. Nichols, a former sixth-grade teacher at the Annapolis Area Christian School, is accused of sexually abusing a Crownsville boy who attended the school from kindergarten through grade 10. The alleged abuse occurred while the boy was in grades seven through 10.

The youth, now a 17-year-old high school senior at another school, testified that Mr. Nichols repeatedly molested him over the course of three years, touching his genitals in the teacher's home and in the teacher's classroom, where the victim volunteered as an aide because he liked the classroom computer.

The youth said he was fondled 10 to 15 times in Mr. Nichols' sixth-grade classroom over the course of a year. The victim, then in seventh grade, was seated at the teacher's desk obscured from the rest of the class by a partition, he told jurors.

He said he also was molested twice at Mr. Nichols' home, once during a Christmas party and another time when the youth had spent the night there before the two went on a trip to

Pennsylvania.

He said he thought of telling his mother, but was concerned about how she would react.

"I didn't want to tell her what was going on. I was scared and embarrassed," the boy said.

He finally told his older brother last May, after he was in a small gathering and overheard a girl describing how she felt being raped.

"It just really struck home with me 'cause I knew how much it had hurt her, 'cause I had been hurt the same way," he said.

Mr. Nichols, a graduate of a South Carolina Bible college who now lives in Elgin, S.C., said he became close to a lot of his students and frequently had them over to his house, took them on camping trips and to Orioles games.

He said he touched the youth and a lot of other students at the school -- but never touched anyone on the genitals.

According to testimony, Mr. Nichols took an interest in the youth when he was in fifth grade and was distraught over the death of his grandmother.

"He was a neat kid," Mr. Nichols told the jury. "But I wasn't just friendly to him, I was friendly to all of the students."

He said the classroom desk where the abuse is alleged to have occurred was visible to all 26 of his students, who he said were in the classroom at the time.

Closing arguments in the case, which is being tried before Judge Eugene M. Lerner, are expected today.

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