The girl’s parents reported the complaint to school officials, who called police. But Fairfax child sex crimes detectives Nicole Christian and Rich Mullins did not interview the girl, instead watching as she was interviewed by a county social worker. Witnesses said Lanigan had reprimanded the girl for verbally abusing younger children, that she faced the loss of her positions as a safety patrol and in-school news reporter, and that she told them: “Mr. Lanigan’s a jerk. I’m going to make him pay.”
School employees also testified that tumbling mats were not kept in the room where the girl said she was taken, and that such mats would not fit in the cramped space.
The detectives interviewed a friend of the accuser who corroborated her account. Two boys also in the gym said they didn’t see anything. The detectives interviewed Lanigan, who said he might have picked the girl up, but that he didn’t fondle or lay on her.
Christian obtained warrants charging Lanigan with abduction and aggravated sexual battery of a child under 13, and ordered him to surrender on a Friday afternoon. He was not able to appear before a judge for four days, time he spent in the Fairfax County jail as an accused child molester. Fairfax police issued a news release with his photo and home address, and the allegation attracted local media attention.
Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer said Friday he could not comment on the case.
Lanigan’s lawyers investigated and thought they could persuade Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh to drop the case. But Morrogh refused, having previously prosecuted another popular teacher who eventually pleaded guilty to molesting a student. Morrogh did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Lanigan testified at trial that he did not molest the girl. The girl admitted telling her friends she “hated” Lanigan, and she clarified that he did not lay on top of her, but rather over her. The case went to the jury with Lanigan facing a possible 40 years in prison.
The jury took 47 minutes to acquit Lanigan of both charges.
But Fairfax schools declined to allow Lanigan back into Centre Ridge, instead reassigning him to South Lakes High School.
When the school district stalled on Lanigan’s request for financial reimbursement, he agreed to tell his story to The Washington Post, which was featured in an article last year in April. Lanigan said the article caused him to receive thousands of dollars in donations to help defray his costs, and he and his wife were featured on NBC’s “Today” show.
The settlement of the suit does not cover Lanigan’s legal costs for the current case, which neither he nor Reichhardt would disclose. The county’s legal fees were not available Friday.