The former principal at Northwestern High School is standing trial for his alleged involvement in covering up a sexual crime that occurred at his school. The allegations charge that Dwight Bernard protected a football player that was accused of statutory rape. The star football player was accused of having sex in a school bathroom with an underage girl. In 2007 a grand jury indicted Bernard on two counts of official misconduct. While the prosecutor accused the defendant of covering up the crime, his criminal defense lawyer claimed that her client committed no crime.
The setting for the trial began in 2006, when the high school football player and a 14 year old female student had sex on a bathroom floor. The mother of the young girl found out about the incident and reported it during a parent-teacher conference which occurred the following month. The following day, the mother met with the principal and other school administrators to discuss the allegation. According to the indictment, Bernard failed to report the sex crime to the school police and in fact failed to report the episode to anyone. A school counselor believed Bernard would report the offense to the police once she informed him of his obligation to do so. Bernard is also accused of falsifying reports about his role in the investigation.
Police reports indicate that the incident continued to go unreported even after other students were caught have sex with the same underage girl. It was not until the victim's mother told another school employee that an investigation into the allegations regarding the football player were initiated, which eventually led to an arrest for lewd and lascivious battery on a child. The charges were filed in juvenile court. The high school student accepted a pre-trial intervention program in lieu of standing trial. The pre-trial intervention program is available for first time offenders. If the defendant completes all the conditions set forth by the prosecution, the charges will be dismissed after being enrolled in the program for approximately six months.
Individuals charged with sexual offenses must retain criminal defense law firms with significant experience in the defending these types of cases. The majority of sex offenses carry severe punishments that can land a defendant in prison. Not only is a long prison sentence possible, but anyone convicted of a sexually motivated offense will be listed with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a sexual offender, or even worse a sexual predator. Once an individual receives this type of classification, there are very serious ramifications. The current laws in Miami-Dade County and around the State of Florida puts restrictions on where sex offenders can live. While there has been recent changes to the local laws, a sex offender title will place limitations on where a person can reside. Additionally, sex offenders' photos are placed on the internet which is embarrassing situation. Also, sex offenders are required to register four times a year so law enforcement can track their whereabouts. While a talented criminal lawyer can avoid jail and prison sentences for sexual offenses, it is important that charge bargaining occur so that individuals who do enter pleas avoid the connotation of being a sexual offender.
Trial Over Sex Scandal Begins For Former Northwestern High Principal, The Miami Herald, April 23, 2010.