Jackie: Now at 5, a Miami-Dade jury awards a child more than $5 million after he claims he was abused several times at a South Florida Charter School. Team 6 reporter, Ari Odzer, has been tracking this case the entire time, and he’s live in Miami. And Ari, what has been the reaction to today’s verdict?
Ari: Well, Jackie, it wasn’t the actual amount, the damages amount that the plaintiff’s had asked for, which was $25 million, but you always ask for way more than you think you’re going to get. So being awarded more than $5 million here today at the court house was a big victory for the little boy known as John Doe and for his mother, and to protect his identity, by the way, we’re not going to identify her either.
Jury: Was there negligence on the part of the charter school defendants, which was illegal cause of loss, injury or damage to…? Answer? Yes.
Ari: The jury’s decision meant victory for the plaintiff, a $5.25 million award for a little boy who’s now 10 years old and satisfaction for his mother. Can you tell us what you thought when you heard that verdict? What thoughts went through your head?
Mother: Just vindication for my son, just vindication. I felt very proud, very happy, and I still feel that way.
Jeff: They tried to seek help, he talked about it when it first happened, and you could see in this trial that the school just didn’t believe him, did not protect him. And so this was about vindication for this boy, it was about giving him a voice.
Ari: The boy had alleged that an older boy raped him on the way to school in that van and then, again, twice in the bathroom at the downtown Miami Charter School. The defense basically argued that the boy’s story could not be true. There were no witnesses to any of the sexual assaults, and fifth graders are never allowed in the bathroom at the same time as third graders.
Todd: We’re obviously very disappointed, Ari. We thought that the way that the evidence came in that they weren’t going to find that there was no negligence. But we have our options, we have pushed our motions and then an appeal.
Jeff: You know, appeal usually takes about a year or so, but this boy is 10 years old so he’s got a long time to wait, and we’re in no rush.
Ari: The boy’s attorney says the money awarded for pain and suffering will pay for the years of therapy he needs. His mom says there’s a lesson here for all parents to heed.
Mother: I never doubted my son simply because I know his character. And I will say that if your child comes home with a story that you find a bit odd, don’t just dismiss it.
Ari: The boy, we’re told, is doing relatively well at another school but his mother testified during the trial that he has a terrible fear now of public restrooms and he still casually mentions suicide, which he allegedly attempted to commit twice, so he clearly needs that therapy that the award money will pay for. We’re live at the court house in downtown Miami. Ari Odzer, NBC 6, South Florida.