Avondale teacher found not guilty on two criminal sexual conduct charges

Mistrial declared on first rape charge, defendant will be retried

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 26, 2019

 Aaron Donaghy

Aaron Donaghy

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TROY — After deliberating for the equivalent of 2 1/2 days, a jury found Avondale teacher Aaron Donaghy not guilty June 17 of two of three counts of criminal sexual conduct. The jury was unable to decide on the remaining count.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews declared a mistrial when the jury could not come to an agreement on the first charge.

That case is scheduled for pretrial June 24.

“We are still able to pursue it,” said Paul Walton, the chief assistant prosecutor for Oakland County. “The case is still proceeding.”

A former student, now 35, testified that she and Donaghy “were in a relationship” and had sex at his Somerset Park apartment in the 1999-2000 school year, when she was 15. She graduated from Avondale in 2003.

Witnesses said they saw Donaghy and the former student together in his car. Another witness said that the former student and Donaghy visited her, just the two of them, and brought her a teddy bear when she was hospitalized in Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit in December 1999.

The jury viewed Donaghy’s  1 1/2-hour interview with the Auburn Hills police that was conducted after the former student reported the incidents to Avondale officials in December 2017.

The former student’s mother and sister, and Donaghy’s wife also testified.

“She thought this was a relationship,” Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Heather Brown said to the jury. “She’s 15. She can’t agree to that,” she said, referring to the sexual relationship.

“It didn’t happen,” said Donaghy’s attorney, Mitchell Ribitwer. “She never disclosed. She had many opportunities. He’s an excellent teacher, an outstanding teacher. The kids love him. He builds orphanages in Africa. The timelines don’t make sense.”

The former student said she was a member of a student leadership initiative called Class Board, of which Donaghy was in charge. She also had him as a teacher for earth science as a freshman and biology as a sophomore.

“He seemed to be there for me,” she said, in reference to the sudden death of her father the previous year. “I would stay in his room. We talked about things.”

She testified that after the visit to the hospital when she was a 15-year-old sophomore, Donaghy took her to a pizza restaurant.

“It felt like a date,” she said.

She said they went to his apartment afterwards, where he kissed her. Then he took her home.

She said she began to spend her lunch hours with him in his classroom. They wrote things to each other in a journal passed back and forth, and they discussed having sex, she said.

“The plan was I would go to his apartment,” she said.

She said her sister dropped her off, believing she was there for the Student Board.

“I didn’t want him to get in trouble,” she said.

She said he lit candles and massaged her with oil, then they had sex.

“It felt like we were in a relationship. He was like my boyfriend,” she said.

 

Texas trip
She said that the sexual relationship continued after that, but not on a road trip they took together. She testified that Donaghy, she and her sister drove together to Texas during spring break. They dropped Donaghy off to see his brother and continued on to Houston.

The former student said Donaghy also took her on a weekend trip to Chicago, where they stayed in a hotel and had sex.

She said he also took her to his parents’ home on a lake, where he took her for a boat ride.

She presented, as evidence, a birthday card she said Donaghy gave her when she was a sophomore in which is written, “I love you” in English and “MK,” which is short for “I love you” in her mother’s native language.

She said their relationship came to an end when she was a junior and he moved to a home in a different city.

“I couldn’t share it (the relationship) with anyone. I felt like I was missing out on a lot. I didn’t tell my sister. I didn’t want him to get in trouble. I was embarrassed. I knew that it was wrong. I met someone else in school. I wanted a normal relationship,” she said.

The former student said she decided to report it after she became a mother. Also, her 14-year-old niece was going to attend Avondale, where she knew Donaghy taught.

During his interview with Auburn Hills police, Donaghy said he and his former student and her sister shared a ride to Texas to save expenses, but they did not have sex and he never had sex with the former student. He said she had never been at his parents’ home or at the home he purchased, and that he had a girlfriend at the time. He told police that the only time the former student was in his apartment was to use the bathroom.

Donaghy told police he does not remember going to the hospital.

During his testimony, Donaghy said he was not a traditional teacher because he had hated high school and “being invisible. My goal is that every kid gets seen. I had to make myself available.”

He testified that between 12 and 30 kids would eat lunch in his classroom, and he said “I love you” to students all the time.

“When you’re teaching kids, so they know you believe in them, you be the teacher who does say, ‘I love you.’ They don’t have it easy. Someone needs to love them,” he said.

When asked by Ribitwer if he and the former student engaged in any sexual act, he said, “I did not.”

Donaghy testified that he was not living in the Somerset Park apartments in December of 1999, when his former student said they had sex for the first time.

“Donaghy was placed on leave from the district in December 2017 when law enforcement began their investigation into the allegations of misconduct. Specifics regarding the leave are a personnel issue and not available to the public,” Annette McAvoy, public relations and communications supervisor for the Avondale School District, said via email, adding that the district will not comment on pending litigation.

Ribitwer could not be reached for further comment.

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