ELLICOTT CITY — A jury convicted a former Maryland School for the Deaf aide Wednesday of sexually abusing two of seven middle-school girls who said he had surreptitiously touched their breasts or buttocks over a three-year period at the school’s Columbia campus.
The Howard County jury of eight men and four women cleared 38-year-old Clarence Taylor III of one count of child sexual abuse but was unable to reach a verdict on four other counts. A retrial on those charges is set for May 12.
Taylor, of Baltimore, faces up to 50 years in prison at his sentencing Jan. 31.
The case began last November when a student told her friends in front of a staff member that the boy’s dormitory aide known as CT “likes touching girls.”
The trial began Oct. 28. Jurors deliberated about 10 hours over three days.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Broten called it a challenging case, but one well worth pursuing.
“These types of charges are always serious. Any time you’re talking about somebody who is in a position of power and trust — and we’re talking about a dorm aide — they’re always serious, anytime a child becomes victimized,” she said.
Prosecutors said Taylor used hugs and elaborate handshakes as opportunities to brush his hands and arms across the victims’ breasts. One victim testified Taylor grabbed her rear end and swiped his hand between her legs.
Taylor denied ever touching the girls improperly while working on the school’s Columbia campus from 2008 to 2011.
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 His bail was revoked and he was handcuffed and taken to the county jail.
Defense attorney Brandon Mead said he will appeal the guilty verdicts. He said one issue he will raise is Judge William Tucker’s instruction to jurors that they could consider evidence Taylor asked three of the girls for naked pictures of themselves. That evidence was the basis of three child pornography solicitation counts that prosecutors dropped Friday after resting their case. Broten said prosecutors dropped the charges because they weren’t sure they could prove the offenses occurred in Howard County.
Mead said Tucker erred in telling jurors they could consider the evidence.
“The appellate courts will look at that long and hard and I believe it will be overturned,” he said.
The state’s case lacked physical or video evidence of the alleged abuse. The prosecution relied largely on the girls’ testimony and a videotaped police interview with Taylor.
The School for the Deaf said in a statement late Wednesday that it respects the verdict and asks for privacy for its students and their families.