A judge has dismissed felony child cruelty charges against a former Fairfax County special education teacher after a prosecutor failed to disclose evidence to the defense until the evening before the trial.
Jennah Christine Billeter, 34, of Fairfax, was facing a two-count indictment after she allegedly used Clorox wipes to clean two autistic boys, ages 4 and 5 at the time, in her classroom at Deer Park Elementary School in Centreville last year.
Defense Attorney Peter Greenspun moved to have the charges dropped after the Commonwealth Attorney’s office made detective’s notes from interviews with nine witnesses from Billeter’s school available just before 5 p.m. on the day before the trial, according to court records.
Greenspun said in filings the witnesses described Billeter and her teaching methods favorably and they revealed that some of the prosecutor’s key witnesses did not like Billeter personally.
“Only hours before the beginning of trial, the Commonwealth has now provided a baseball team of witnesses who show motive and bias against Commonwealth witnesses,” Greenspun wrote.
Greenspun declined to comment on the case.
The Supreme Court has ruled prosecutors are required to disclose to defendeants all evidence in their possession that could be exculpatory.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Mark Sullivan, who was handling the case, did not return a call for comment.
The dismissal comes after a Fairfax judge previously dismissed a three-count indictment over the same accusations in July. The judge found the indictment drafted by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office used language deemed unconstitutional by the Virginia Supreme Court.
The Commonwealth was allowed to re-file ammended charges.
Billeter came under scrutiny in July 2010 after an a classroom aide accused her of treating one of the boys roughly while trying to calm him during a tantrum, according to court records. The boy was left with scratches on his neck and chest area.
During a probe that followed, a witness said Billeter called one of the kids a “(expletive) retard” and used a Clorox wipe to clean him when he soiled himself, according to court records. The witness also said Billeter used Lysol on the boy.
Billeter was later suspended and then fired. She had been a teacher in Fairfax County schools since 2002.