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Jury can't reach decision in sex case against former Lakewood band director

LARGO — Former Lakewood High School band director Raphael McLean went on trial this week, accused of having sex with a 15-year-old student in his office inside the band room.

The jury declared itself unable to reach a verdict Wednesday night, hours after McLean's attorney, Val Shealey, offered a novel defense. Shealey said McLean did have sex in his school office, just not with a student — but with an adult guidance counselor.

And on Wednesday that guidance counselor, Danielle Johnson, testified that she had two sexual encounters with McLean in the winter of 2010.

She said she was testifying because "I just want to do what's right." Afterward, she went to School Board headquarters and resigned.

For the defense, Johnson's testimony provided a possible explanation of why McLean's semen was found on the desk and chair in his office.

For the Tampa Bay area, it was another strange twist in its sordid history of teachers being accused of committing questionable and sometimes illegal sexual acts.

But to Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo, the case provided clear evidence McLean had sex with the 15-year-old girl, and "he did so on campus, in his office in the middle of the day."

McLean, 28, extolled by his attorney as a former member of the famed Florida A&M marching band, was a popular teacher and band director at Lakewood, even a father figure for some students. His band room often filled with youths.

The student, now a 17-year-old college-bound senior, said McLean, who was married, frequently complimented her and eventually began talking about sex. Her name is withheld from this report because of the nature of the allegations.

"He asked me if I was to do it with anybody in the school, who would it be? I said Mr. McLean," she testified Tuesday.

At one point, she said, he gave her a hall pass out of geometry class and into band, during his planning period. That's when she took off her pants and they had intercourse on his desk, she said.

She said she didn't tell anyone about it because she was worried that "people would look at me differently."

The girl testified that the sex was consensual, but LaBruzzo told jurors it didn't matter under the law — having sex with someone over 12 and under 16 made him guilty of lewd or lascivious battery, he said.

Experts testified that McLean's semen was found on his desk and chair in his office. But Johnson's testimony, in which she said they had oral sex twice, muddied the waters about how it got there. LaBruzzo said the case ultimately boiled down to whether jurors found the student credible, and he stressed that she was.

Shealey disagreed, saying the girl at first denied to police that any sex occurred, and that she "wavered" in estimating how many minutes the intercourse lasted. He also criticized prosecutors for failing to bring her hall passes into evidence, or proof that she had been enrolled in the geometry class.

Jurors declined to comment as they left the courthouse Wednesday night.

A new trial has been set for June 5.

One thing the jury did not know: McLean also faces another pending charge of lewd and lascivious molestation stemming from a separate incident at Lakewood. A pretrial hearing for that case also has been set for June 5.

Johnson, 36, the former guidance counselor, will not be subject to an investigation by the school district because of her resignation.

A detective told district officials about a month ago that there would be alibi testimony in McLean's case, but they were not told the witness was a school employee, said Pinellas schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez. Then on Monday, Marquez said, the district's Office of Professional Standards was told that Johnson was the alibi witness, but "the office was not told what the content of her testimony would be."

Marquez said no one at the district was aware of Johnson's earlier deposition in the case, in which she told lawyers about the sexual encounters.

Johnson was hired in August 2000 as a teacher at Madeira Beach Fundamental Middle School. In March 2009, she started as a guidance counselor at Bay Point Middle and then transferred to Lakewood in August of 2009. She has no disciplinary actions in her file, Marquez said.

Times staff writer Rebecca Catalanello contributed to this report. Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or [email protected]

Jury can't reach decision in sex case against former Lakewood band director 03/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:47am]
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