BROOKSVILLE — A jury acquitted a Pasco County teacher charged with exposing himself in a Brooksville park bathroom after a daylong trial Monday.
Antonio "Tony" Vasquez, 48, maintained his innocence from the start and reacted with relief as the verdict was read aloud.
At the time of his arrest on charges of misdemeanor exposure of sexual organs in July 2007, Vasquez taught at Land O'Lakes High School.
Two months before, he signed an agreement to teach and coach the boys basketball team at Hernando High School, his alma mater where he was the star player in the mid 1970s.
After his arrest, he resigned the coaching job and the Pasco County School Board suspended him. Now with his name cleared, he wants his Pasco County job back.
"I did nothing wrong," he said outside the courtroom. "I hope to be reinstated."
The case against him centered on the testimony of an undercover Brooksville police officer who staked out a bathroom at Bud McKethan Park as part of a sting operation investigating complaints of illicit sexual conduct.
According to testimony and arrest reports, Officer Shawn Terry initiated a conversation with Vasquez in the bathroom and then they took a walk. Terry, who wore a recording device, posed as a UPS worker new to the area.
Terry said Vasquez made comments about how people "mess around" in the park and that he could be "discreet because he is a teacher." But none of the statements was recorded because the device malfunctioned.
During the walk, Terry acted like his knee hurt and they returned to the bathroom. This is when Terry alleges that Vasquez went into the stall and emerged holding himself through the zipper of his pants. Pointing to his genitals, Vasquez said, "Come on," according to the officer.
But defense attorneys managed to rebut Terry's story, leaving the jury with enough doubt to clear their client.
In the defense's closing argument, Vasquez's attorney Sean Kelley asserted that the officer made up the story to get a high-profile arrest.
Kelley's key evidence was a series of photographs showing Vasquez's penis. Terry said in a sworn statement he believed Vasquez was circumcised, but the pictures proved otherwise.
"This shows why you can't trust him," he said, pointing to the photographs he placed on a ledge in front of a grimacing jury.
Assistant State Attorney Erin Corcoran Daly countered that Vasquez's "lustful act" was not in dispute. "Obviously the jury wanted more. …," she said. "In a case like this there wasn't more."
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.