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Monrovia Man Acquitted on All Counts in School Sexual Abuse Trial

A jury found Wade Joseph Bughman not guilty of nine sexual abuse counts, ending a month-long trial for the former Beardslee Elementary School teacher.

A jury acquitted a Monrovia man of nine counts of sexual abuse Friday after he was accused of rape and molestation by five former Duarte elementary school students.

Wade Joseph Bughman whispered "thank you" to his two attorneys after Superior Court Judge Dorothy Shubin read the not guilty verdicts on each of the nine charged counts of sexual abuse at 11 a.m. Friday.

"I am so thankful and relieved, after two-and-a-half years, to hear 'not guilty' next to crimes I did not commit," Bughman said in an interview outside the courtroom.

Leonard Levine, one of Bughman's two attorneys, said that he was "thrilled" with the verdict.

"We believe an innocent man has been exonerated," Levine said.

Levine maintained in court that the five girls who accused Bughman of crimes including forcible rape and sexual penetration with a foreign object were lying. He said after the verdict that his client passed several polygraph tests that were inadmissible in court.

"If he didn't do it, either they lied about it or someone else did it," Levine said.

Bughman was arrested in June of 2010 after a student accused him of sexual misconduct in a school survey.

The jury began deliberations on Nov. 29 and reached a verdict Friday morning after an alternate juror took the place of an ill juror on Thursday. The trial began on Oct. 16.

Bughman was also found not guilty of four lesser counts of battery related to the alleged abuse.

A family member of one of the alleged victims was visibly upset outside the courtroom and was led away before Bughman exited. Family members of the alleged victims, seated on the right side of the courtroom gallery, cried quietly as each verdict was read. Bughman's friends and family, seated on the left side, also visibly wept.

Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta said that she was "shocked" by the verdict.

"Frankly I am shocked," Archuleta said. "We had an abundance of evidence. We had [evidence of] 15 years of sexual abuse with girls who didn't even know each other."

"It frightens me that he can potentially be back in a classroom with children knowing what we know," she added.

Bughman said he was unsure if he would return to teaching.

"I don't know what the future holds for me but now that I'm free I look forward to figuring that out," he said.

Cindy Mirly December 08, 2012 at 03:41 PM
God truly answers prayers!!! I always knew in my heart and soul that he was innocent. It is a crime against Wade and his entire family that he was wrongly accused of these crimes. Wade has missed out on so many of his family's life events, and these events can never be replayed or replaced. I will keep the entire family in my prayers for healing.
suzanne bughman December 08, 2012 at 04:39 PM
suzanne bughman Ms. Archuleta knew that he was innocent and fought like a wildcat to keep all the true evidence from being heard, doctors tests, a girl's medical records, sart exam until the last hour. I was truly shocked knowing she knew the truth and still continues to criminalize him. It frightens me to know that she has a chance to bring to conviction those who she knows are innocent and does it anyway. God is listening to her.
Gayle M. Montgomery December 08, 2012 at 04:59 PM
If this man is truly innocent, great. But what of the children who testified and their parents? These kids need to be protected, have counseling, and periodically checked up on. If they believed what they said was true, it was brave for then to come forward, and they need to be followed up with to make sure they are not emotionally or physically harmed. The courts have resolved the guilty or innocent situation. There is more to this story than a verdict can fix. I wish them all well.
Monrovia Parent December 09, 2012 at 12:46 AM
The kids are the one's who are scares forever now.
Jan Neely December 09, 2012 at 01:01 AM
They should be. They lied and caused a lot of trouble and heartache let alone the money it cost to prosecute a case with NO evidence. A witchhunt!! And.... 2 1/2 years out of this man and his family's life.
R Terry December 09, 2012 at 01:19 AM
I would sure like to know why this happened. Did they have some grudge against this teacher? Is he too strict? It's pretty sick to make up such a story about someone who you don't even have a problem with. Are the girls willing to take polygraph tests?
Tim Young December 09, 2012 at 05:19 AM
As per the norm in these types of cases the" McMartin" case would be a great examination In how manipulation,often from the coaching of a 'Trusted" Adult can bring a clean sweep of the jury and a damning indictment on the prosecutor and their team! May Mr. Bughman now enjoy his well deserved freedom but his civil and character resuscitation plans are surely being formed. The Best To The Bughman Defense Team and Mr. Bughman the strength to confront those whose intent from the beginning was to "railroad you" and inflict the most heinous of offences for the pleasure of a few parents and children used as pawns in this diabolical theater The children will slowly recant their stories while Mr. Bughman seeks the remuneration and more important, his career with restitution and dignity!
Tim Young December 09, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Deputy District Attorney Debra Archuleta will be treated a loser in an office of her peers.This entire case had "Marsha Clarke" promotions hinging on a complete conviction! looks like traffic court may be her next career move,so she can attempt to appear indigent when the civil judgments start to fall!
Gayle M. Montgomery December 09, 2012 at 09:01 AM
Not trying to cast aspersions on this teacher who has been tried and found innocent in a court of law. But a couple of things bear noting when it comes to court cases. Not all evidence makes it into court, and even OJ was "innocent" once. I'm not saying this teacher is not. But as for the girls, I think knocking off the judgmental calls on them is probably for the best. We don't know what drivers came into play here, and it's best that they not be tried in a court of public opinion. They are children, not adults. We were not there. We don't know what they did or did not experience, how effective they were in providing self-testimony, nothing. I hope everybody is allowed to heal, including those kids.
Jeff December 09, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I agree that we can’t get inside these girls’ minds to know exactly what their motivations are. However, there were people who sat through both the preliminary hearings and the trial. Their opinions are not based on conjecture but on actual observation of all these girls’ testimonies, which they observed firsthand. Three were 11 or 12, but two were much older. One of the younger girls, in particular, started testifying in the preliminary hearing with a wry smile, chewing gum, appearing to be enjoying every minute. None of the girls or young women accusers became tearful for the most part while telling their stories, all of which changed over time and were consistently preposterous and unfeasible. Their tears most notably occurred when inconsistencies in their ever-changing stories were questioned. I also agree we should not view these kids as strictly as we would adults. Indeed, I believe that without the influence of the prosecution and detective, they might not have chosen to stick with their stories. Neither were they infants, however, and the most serious charges were filed by one who was 17 at the time and one who was a young adult. I do not believe that any of them have earned the right to any emotional relief until they come forward, recant their stories, and apologize to Mr. Bughman and his family for causing their horrible losses over the past 2.5 years. Let us not forget that there were two clearly valid child victims in this case: The Bughmans’ children.
Concerned parent December 09, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Frightening. I wish the victims in this case - Wade Bughman and his family -- all the best in healing and figuring out how to emerge from this crisis. Like others here, I struggle to understand how this could happen and I also have questions. Like why would Mr Bughman voluntarily subject himself to multiple days of intense polygraph testing -- with multiple independent experts from different areas of law enforcement? Just for a result that he already knows to be true -- but not even admissible in court? (All 12 jurors unanimously cleared Wade of everything -- even the minor misdemeanor charges, without knowing anything about those tests.) It really scares me to think about how easily this could happen to any responsible adult working with our children. I've dealt with enough young people to imagine any number of scenarios where a very damaging story could snowball from a "prank" or "need for peer attention" or even an "act of aggression" from one or two children -- for a variety of reasons. But as someone else commented, the girls in this case are "children, not adults" -- and I doubt that significant changes can be enacted to stop children from many of the "questionable" things they say and do. We do not hold children to the same standards of accountability for their words and actions, but our society needs to do a much better job of protecting all of us from horrific ordeals like Wade has faced.
Gayle M. Montgomery December 09, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I spent 20 years volunteering for a local shelter for abused girls of which many had been sexually abused. Doing so, in combination with years of therapy, helped me to heal the violated child. While most wanted to reach out to the littlest children, I formed a bridge with the older girls who considered me a hero as I explained that where they were, I had been and not to give up. I also did volunteer efforts for teen boys but in lesser number. I took those girls to work on floats and to help me with passing out awards at Special Olympics. My experience was that the boys as teens had a softer outer shell, but that the girls appeared harder until you could break down the wall they had built to protect themselves. Far too many were the stories of disbelievers, who said the girls were lying because this fine adult could never do such things, and many were the tales of a parental figure choosing to remain with the violator leaving the child in the system. I wish I were still in contact with Sister Joanne who could best relay the tragedies. The court has ruled this man innocent, and I am not questioning that. I am just asking that right minded adults leave these children alone and let's move on. Put policies in place that preclude even the shadow of doubt knowing that our staffing at schools is not optimal and learn from this. This was 5 girls of varying ages. Hard to prove conspiracy.
Jeff December 09, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I applaud the fine work you have done with valid victims, and I believe you have done well to turn your own tragedy into a blessing for such children. Thank you. I have also worked with sexual abuse victims of all ages, and I believe that sexual abuse is a hideous crime, but please consider this. If these 5 girls (three of the same age and in the same class, who started the ball rolling; the other two are adults at this point) were, in fact lying, do you think they should just be "left alone?" If they were to recant and admit that their stories were false, would you still not think it appropriate for them to at least apologize to the Bughmans for robbing them of 2.5 years? Mr. Bughman missed every significant milestone and event for both his children during this ordeal. He missed his younger child’s graduation. He missed teaching his older child to drive. He missed seeing the children of close friends who all loved him like family. He missed being able do even mundane things like yard work, which his family always did together before the arrest. (continued in next post)
Jeff December 09, 2012 at 10:33 PM
No one has proposed conspiracy, but rather, a prank that snowballed into hysteria. The defense suggested that the initial report (an anonymous survey, whereby the child presumably never expected to be identified by her handwriting) was a prank that she shared with classmates to get attention. However, when her handwriting was recognized and she was called to the principal’s office, she faced two options: Admit the prank and get in big trouble or claim that it was true and start the snowball. Tragically, it seems she attempted to avoid trouble by claiming it was true, even though she then changed her story dramatically over time, eventually reducing it to a claim of one lewd touch in an open hallway where others could have seen it. Again, those who sat through this trial and heard these accusers are not simply making conjectures. No doubt, these girls/young women have experienced pain through this process, and some are quite possibly valid victims of abuse from others. But that does not justify their actions to this teacher beloved by hundreds over 15 years. I agree that we should not attribute adult reasoning to children, and I agree that children should generally not be tried as adults. But to simply ask everyone to just “move one” is to ignore that these girls should be held accountable for their actions. Justice is appropriate even when children are the offenders.
VIcki Kepnes December 10, 2012 at 01:40 AM
These children need counciling and with someone who realizes that they were coerced to accuse a teacher who truly cared for his students!!!!
Maria December 10, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Thank you for being an advocate for victims. I know that these kids told the truth and they will be stronger because the truth has set them free. Girls thank you !
Maria December 10, 2012 at 05:53 AM
The truth will prevail. There is a GOD and we will all meet our maker at some point. We may get away with things but we all will pay. It is called karma!!!!!!!!!
Concerned parent December 10, 2012 at 07:04 AM
Strange twist portraying "karma" as some kind of "spritual judgment and punishment"? The truth has already prevailed -- the verdict is in. Mr Bughman was subjected to a very misguided plan to hurt him or maybe just the brunt of some "attention-seeking behavior". He was accused of things that had the potential to swell emotions and mobilize adults ready to "help" at any cost. He was almost immediately convicted by many in the "court of public opinion", and he has now been completely exonerated. Mr Bughman had the foresight to submit himself to grueling polygraph examinations by multiple experts, to help ensure that the truth did prevail. I'd like to hear from experts in child psychology how counseling and/or other means might help the "truth" continue to prevail. Mr Bughman's family can now look towards putting the pieces of their lives back together, for themselves and their friends, family and community.
Gayle M. Montgomery December 10, 2012 at 02:31 PM
So tell me how you would hold the children accountable? It is obvious you have a connection to the defendant in that you were there everyday. The defendant having been found innocent does not always translate to his or her accuser having lied. The legal system is a lot more complex. These kids had a story they told to one or more authority figures. I am guessing there were pych eval before being allowed to testify and if they lied, they fooled the police and DA. Now, without trying them, you want them held accountable for the outcome. How many real victims will be afraid to speak out if the fear is that, in a court of law, their case will not prevail, and they will face the justice of those who support the defendant? Again, this defendant has been found innocent and must set about forging a life post trial. I just want to know what justice you expect from these kids? How do you believe they should be punished? What legal options exist? Remember, this was not a civil trial but rather criminal. I am guessing the girls are already dealing with peer pressure from fans of the popular teacher. To me there are two issues here, a quest for "justice" and the law. The court of public opinion may solve the former, but I do not think there are many options in the latter.
Jeff December 11, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Ms. Montgomery, perjury is a crime, but it is very difficult to prosecute. As such, civil courts are the likely domain for pursuing damages. These five accusers caused Mr. Bughman not only to lose 2.5 years of his life, but he doubtless incurred steep financial losses, and great damage to his reputation. Should we simply wish him, “All the best,” and encourage him to simply move on with his life as though nothing happened? In this case, the defendant’s innocence does indeed translate into the accusers’ having lied. They certainly could not have imagined the vicious things they accused him of, and they certainly could not have mistaken him for another person. As for them convincing the chief detective, her investigation was shown to be incompetent on multiple levels. I seriously doubt that the DA was fooled. Her apparent prime motivation was to win the case at all costs. Her constant use of epithets and exaggerations (e.g., repeatedly claiming a 15-year abuse history (1997) when Mr Bughman was arrested in 2010, a time span of under 13 years) throughout her presentations, as well as her misrepresenting key facts (as verified by viewing police reports), suggests that she was more interested in winning than finding the truth. The DA’s office continued to express sympathy for the “victims” post-trial, when a jury said there were no victims, further supporting the contention that truth was not her prime goal (continued in next post).
Jeff December 11, 2012 at 01:00 AM
I never suggested holding the accusers accountable without trying them. I believe that some sort of civil trial would be required. They deserve the right to fair trial. However, if real victims fear speaking out because false, lying accusers are judged to be untruthful, that represents very poor logic. Please consider the opposite. How many good, honorable teachers will live in fear every day at work and/or abandon the careers they love because of knowing what happened to Mr. Bughman even though he was innocent? That fear is indeed logical. As for justice for the accusers (who again, are not all kids; two are adults), I already suggested that it would be a helpful start if they confessed to lying and apologized to Mr. Bughman. As for legal options, I have no idea whether the Bughmans will consider civil suit against the families to cover their undoubtedly massive expenses, let alone pursuing damages for pain and suffering, but it would certainly be reasonable (continued next post).
Jeff December 11, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Finally, you might be surprised to know what I would truly wish for the accusers. I sincerely wish that they would: a) acknowledge their lies and sincerely apologize, b) truly learn from this dreadful ordeal that their words can have devastating effects on the lives of others, c) get the psychological help that they probably do need in light of the stress incurred in this process and/or through any abuses they actually have suffered from others, and d) grow through the process and go on to live productive, healthy, and successful lives. Many equate justice with vengeance. I do not. Vengeance is futile and never solves anything.
John Smith December 14, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Point to note, the defendant was not found “innocent”, but rather, he was found “not guilty”. May seem to some that ”innocent” and “not guilty” are one in the same, however, there is a very clear legal distinction between both in definition. Regardless, for society’s sake, I hope that the Jury got it right with their “not guilty” determination. Nevertheless, our legal system dictates that society accept the Jury’s final determination. Another point to note, before you indict the prosecution, law enforcement, or the accusers, recognize that there was more evidence in this case than just simply innuendo or rumor. There were more than “smoking gun” concerns with this case. Many of Mr. Bughman’s actions with young female students went beyond appropriate boundaries and warranted serious concern, which at a minimum gave legitimate cause for great concern over Mr. Bughman’s actions. Suffice it to say, this was not a situation of a dutiful educator being wrongly accused as a prank or for retaliation because he was a tough educator. Again, at a minimum, much of his conduct toward young female students was grossly inappropriate and not remotely acceptable.
Gayle M. Montgomery December 14, 2012 at 06:52 AM
I don't intend to belabor the point, Jeff, but a verdict of innocence sometimes derives from the beyond the shadow of a doubt instruction within the law. But stop and think of what you are asking, from a practical perspective, the accused and the accusers to go through. You indicated the criminal aspects took 2 years of his life and disrupted it dramatically. The average civil trial takes about 4 years to come to trial. That is 4 more years that the accused could not go on with his life, 4 more years of disruption. In order for charges of perjury to be applied, those are criminal, not civil charges. There has to be evidence that the children perjured themselves, and a not guilty verdict is not proof of perjury. I get it. You feel that the teacher was wrongly accused and that he deserves to get a pound of flesh for the disruption. I can't think of a prosecutor that is going to turn around and file perjury charges against children (the whole capacity issue), especially in the case of children the prosecutors used as witnesses. The system just doesn't work that way. I understand your frustration, but I see no remedy in this case that works with the legal system and allows the teacher to heal. Do you know of some specific application that would allow this to happen or is this just a need to avenge a perceived wrong?
Scott December 14, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Jeff just said he did not believe in revenge, he believes in justice. While true abusers of children must be punished, there also must be a system in place that protects those who work with children. So there needs to be a specific application in place so that in a case like this, the false accusers fear the consequences of continuing a lie this long via confessing to the lie earlier. These girls had their opportunities early to recant, maybe they would of if they knew there would be consequences for taking this too far. If you have worked with adolescent girls coming from troubled homes, you should know they are very volatile, emotional and easily influenced. In our society where everything has been sexualized, every move becomes sexualized. One accidental brush against a male teacher while walking past turns into a "Oh my gosh, he touched me!" This seems to have been the perfect storm of a teacher who actually cared enough for his students to spend time with them, typical teenage girls gone awry, a terrible investigation and a skewed prosecutor not after justice but political gain. I think those that doubt should really try to see the reality that the defendant did nothing wrong! No guilt, no blame, just a good teacher who go caught in a very bad case. Like Jeff said, good luck finding teachers and child caretakers if a pathetic case like this can nearly cost a man his life.
Jeff December 15, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Mr. Smith, I would be interested to know where you get your facts. First, our legal system says that a person is innocent until proven guilty. There is no trial that ever delivers a verdict of “innocent” in the United States. This is due in part to the fact that the accused is already innocent from the start, unless proven otherwise. Second, there were no statements in the trial that support any of your claims in any way, shape, or form. Moreover, the jury had the option of convicting on three lesser misdemeanor charges of battery, which could have been validated even if he had simply been shown to lightly poke a girl in the elbow in a way that she did not want. This jury chose to declare him not guilty even on these lesser charges, based on the evidence and their careful deliberations. What are your charges based on? Did you ever witness him doing something inappropriate? Mr. Bughman was known for almost 20 years as a beloved, safe, caring, and even favorite teacher. In fact, in spite of herself, the prosecutor even referred to him as “the legendary Mr. Bughman” based on the opinion of many. She then tried to paint him as leading a double-life: legendary and evil. Obviously, she failed. Please do not make statements claiming wrongdoing unless you can substantiate them with first-hand information or data. Otherwise, statements like yours simply constitute slander and libel.
Jeff December 15, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Ms. Montgomery, Please re-read my comments above, which apparently you did not read thoroughly. Then read the response by "Scott" below. You and I actually agree that revenge is futile. As for Mr. Bughman's case deriving from "beyond a shadow of doubt," which would infer that he was "really guilty but just didn't get caught," I can tell you that this was not the case here. The complaining witnesses’ allegations were specious, untenable, and less feasible than if they had claimed Mr. Bughman turned them into fish and locked them in an aquarium. There was no shadow of doubt regarding his innocence.
Helena Coche December 18, 2012 at 09:45 AM
Excellent reply from Scott. Very valid intelligent reasoning and and plausible explanations. I agree with what you wrote: "... there needs to be a specific application in place so that in a case like this, the false accusers fear the consequences..." I think schools and other public venues where adults are in charge of children, definitely need a safety net to protect both parties. Perhaps installing (very obvious) surveillance cameras in all the rooms where adults and minors interact, as well as in vulnerable areas, like the auditoriums, hallways, etc...making it well known that security is everywhere and everyone is constantly being monitored. I think that would end allegations of misconduct, cries of being molested...as well as put a huge crimp for adults- in careers and positions who are in charge of minors and vulnerable young children- to commit evil deeds against children left in their charge. Of course, this could never work 100% because of areas such as bathrooms which never should be monitored, where some pervert may try and do their evil deeds there, or a troubled minor could also claim the same. Hopefully, knowing that "big brother" is watching all the public areas, this surely would cut down on a lot of these molestations that happen constantly....teachers...coaches...youth group leaders...ministers/pastors....day care centers... Continued...
Helena Coche December 18, 2012 at 09:49 AM
...Jeff also made excellent comments with explanations and summations of what went down, and how vulnerable adults are in an authoritative position, as are children. I can't believe that security monitoring systems haven't been implemented decades ago! Especially for younger and more vulnerable children, who are preyed upon by adults they are intrusted to for guidance and care. :(
Helena Coche December 18, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Yes indeed it did, and the truth showed Wade Bughman to be found NOT GUILTY!! Hopefully Maria, you are right about not getting away with things, and maybe the accusers will do the right thing and tell the truth. You know the saying "The Truth Shall Set You Free." Justice prevailed. :)

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