A former Hylton High School student with Down syndrome testified yesterday in a Prince William County courtroom that her special education teacher sexually molested her in December in his classroom after lunch.
The second trial of David A. Perino, 39, on felony charges of attempted forcible sodomy and aggravated sexual battery began yesterday. A trial in May ended in a hung jury.
The woman, who lives in the Woodbridge area and is now 21, told jurors that she went to Perino, a former teacher of hers, for advice on the morning of Dec. 12 because she was upset about her parents' separation. She said that Perino tried to sodomize her in his darkened classroom.
"I was trying to say 'Stop' a lot, and he didn't say a word to me," she said, burying her face in her hands as she spoke. "I was frozen, scared and shocked. . . . I hate him, and I want to kill him now."
Perino's attorney, Pamela Cave, told jurors in opening statements yesterday that the woman had a "history of lies" at the school and concocted the story out of jealousy that Perino was spending more time with his wife and children thanher. Cave told jurors that the student was searching for a father figure because of her parents' pending divorce.
"She has a mental competency . . . like a 10-year-old's," Cave said, citing various school staff reports that called the student "a drama queen," "a hijinks kind of person" and someone who "will always make a bad decision when unsupervised."
Cave said the student had made repeated phone calls and written notes to Perino's home seeking his affection in the time leading up to the alleged incident. The attorney also questioned why the school did not call police until several hours after the alleged incident and faulted police for not conducting forensic exams.
Cave told the court that on Dec. 12, Perino and the student talked about each other's families and that she left shortly after.
The woman, who has since graduated and has a job, testified yesterday that no one else was in Perino's classroom when she came by about 11 a.m. that day. He was sitting near a computer and grading papers, and when she arrived, he put the papers in a cabinet. She sat in his chair, she said. He approached her, began rubbing her back, put his hand on her head and proceeded to molest her, the woman testified.
The woman said she ran crying to the classroom of another teacher, Maura Hastie, and told her that she had been "raped." Later, she said she encountered Perino in a hallway and that he told her "he was sorry, that he would never do it again. I wouldn't accept it."
"I wanted him as my father," she said, saying she was having a "hard time with my parents."
On cross-examination, Cave asked the woman to recount the incident step-by-step, and the woman gave testimony that appeared inconsistent with what security cameras showed. The woman testified that Perino was wearing a suit, but security video footage played earlier in the day showed that he had on khakis and a white sweater.
After the woman told the court that her eyes were pressed against his chest while she was sitting and he was standing, Cave asked that the woman, who is very short, how that was possible.
"If he's 6-foot-2, and he unzipped his pants, and he put your head on his chest, how can he do that? . . . "
The woman, testifying with her head in her hands, replied: "Nothing. I couldn't see. My eyes were on his stomach."
The woman's mother testified that her daughter has trouble sleeping and has pulled out her hair.
Perino, who did not testify in the last trial, said during a break in proceedings yesterday that he cannot find a job anywhere. He said that since the accusation was made, he has been on unpaid administrative leave and has been forced to move out of the Washington area.
The trial will resume today in Prince William Circuit Court.