Detroit News

February 16, 2007

Judge frees teacher in sex case
Ferndale man in alleged assaults of boys will get retrial with new witnesses and evidence.
Mike Martindale / The Detroit News

PONTIAC -- A former kindergarten teacher convicted of sexually assaulting two boys is eligible to leave jail today after the judge who ordered a new trial for him set bond and conditions for his release.

Oakland Circuit Judge Denise Langford Morris ordered a bond of 10 percent of $100,000, which means that the teacher, James Norman Perry, 33, could walk out of jail for $10,000. She also ordered him to wear a GPS tether and to avoid contact with children unless their parents are present.

Langford Morris on Feb. 7 tossed out Perry's conviction based on additional witnesses and evidence that surfaced since his trial.

"The judge reinstated bond and maintained the pretrial status," said appeals attorney Robyn Frankel. "That's all good, but we won't be happy until he is out and cleared. This has tormented him. He hasn't been able to even talk to his brothers for a year. It's been one year to this day that he was first arrested."

Perry of Ferndale has five half-brothers between the ages of 12 and 19. The order prohibiting him to be in contact with children applies to his contact with them, too.

Perry will be allowed to live with a grandfather in Shelby Township but pending his trial he cannot have no contact with any of his alleged victims and cannot even work in an environment where children congregate.

Perry has been in jail an Oakland County Jail cell awaiting sentencing since September, when a jury found him guilty of two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving two boys, ages 4 and 5, at Key Elementary School in Oak Park.
Perry, who repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, allegedly removed the boys from a hallway line during lunch and took them to a special education room, where the boys said fondling and oral sex took place.

Frankel noted Perry has a lawsuit pending against Oak Park schools and is being sued by the family of one of his alleged victims.

In Perry's retrial, the defense is expected to call witnesses who didn't testify or weren't known at the first trial to say the attacks could not have taken place in the special education room because it was always occupied. The prosecution will also produce a new witness to support its case, according to Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting attorney Andrea Dean.

Dean argued Perry should have been denied bond because under the crimes with which he is charged -- and can carry up to life in prison -- a defendant can be denied pretrial release. She also noted the jury had found him guilty.

Perry's father, Edward, and a stepmother, Son Kim, sat in the front row of the courtroom during Thursday's proceedings, exchanging smiles with Perry, sitting about 20 feet away in a bright orange Oakland County Jail jumpsuit.

A grandfather, an uncle, a former co-worker and some members of James Perry's Ferndale church were in court to show their support during the brief 20-minute hearing.

"We know there have to be rules, there have to be laws to protect people from all the freaks out there -- but my son's not one of them," said Edward Perry outside the courtroom.

Langford Morris's overturning of the jury verdict has been widely discussed among Metro Detroit attorneys interested in the case.

Lawrence Dubin, a University of Detroit Law Professor who specializes in evidence, said it was unusual for a judge to overturn a verdict before sentencing.

"It's clear in this case that judge finds the evidence very compelling," Dubin said.

In a four-page opinion explaining her decision last week, Langford Morris wrote that in light of newly discovered witnesses a new trial was not only mandated but to permit the jury's verdict to stand would have been a "miscarriage of justice."

Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca said an appeal is planned before the Michigan Court of Appeals.

You can reach Mike Martindale at (248) 647-7226 or mmartindale@detnews.com.


False Child Abuse Allegations
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct

Truth in Justice