A Montgomery County jury acquitted a county middle school teacher of child sex abuse charges in Circuit Court on Tuesday after just under two hours of deliberation.
Friends and family members of the defendant, 51-year-old Cuyler J. Cornell, let out a series of joyful exclamations and greeted the verdict with tearful thanks after the jurors announced their decision at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday before Judge Robert Greenberg. Cuyler, an English teacher at Neelsville Middle School in Germantown, thanked the jurors with tears in his eyes as they filed from the courtroom.
“Thank you all very much,” he said, his voice cracking. “Thank you.”
His defense attorney, Reginald W. Bours III, said Cornell declined to make a comment to the press.
Cornell was charged with the sexual abuse of a child and two counts of third-degree sexual offense relating back to an incident in which another Neelsville teacher walked into his classroom Feb. 24, 2011, and saw him with the victim, then 14, sitting on his lap. Cornell was placed on paid administrative leave that day and police were called to interview the victim, a boy who had been in Cornell’s class during the 2010-11 school year.
The victim, who had prior admissions to area behavioral health centers for suicidal tendencies and depression, told police and school officials that Cornell had molested him on several occasions the previous summer and during that school year. Cornell was arrested May 7 and went to trial last week maintaining his innocence.
“It was conflicting evidence. It was illogical that a man with 25 years in the school system is waiting for this kid to groom him for abuse,” Bours said of his client’s acquittal after hearing the verdict.
Bours went on to criticize the claims about Cornell made by Assistant State’s Attorneys Ryan Wechsler and Timothy Hagan at trial, calling them “misguided and wrong,” and even going so far as to accuse the prosecutors of slandering his client.
“It’s win at all costs for the state’s attorneys on these types of cases,” Bours said.
Wechsler declined to comment on the verdict following the case, citing her office’s standards for speaking with the press.
“We disagree with the jury but accept their verdict,” said Ramon Korionoff, the State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman, in an email. “Unfortunately, the defense was able to play upon the victim’s mental health history and convince the jury that he was making up the stories about sexual abuse. An at-risk child with a troubled home life can be a perfect victim in that an abuser knows it’s an adult’s word versus that of a child. We believe we tried this case in pursuit of justice and the jury disagreed.”
Bours was unable to provide details on the impact Cornell’s acquittal may have on his career with Montgomery County Public Schools.
“The verdict doesn’t mean one thing or another about his teaching career,” Bours said. “In other words, he’s not going back to class tomorrow.”
School system spokesman Dana Tofig did not comment on the specifics of Cornell’s case. He added, however, that the outcome of a criminal matter does not necessarily dictate the status of someone’s employment; each is kept separate.