He 'took her innocence.' Will the D.A. press charges?
Two young women recently got nearly $3.5 million in two civil law suits that alleged their elementary school principal sexually abused them, but one family is asking why the Clackamas County District Attorney's office has yet to bring criminal charges against former Deep Creek Elementary School principal Jeff Hays.
"Our thought was that he (Hays) would get arrested right away," Kathy Smith, one of the girls' moms said.
But despite the civil cases, Hays has not been criminally charged.
Since the civil suits were filed, another student, a boy identified only by initials in court documents, has come forward and accused Hays of molesting him also.
Court documents said the boy recalled one particular incident with the principal in his office. "And, he's rubbing and keeps on rubbing down my leg until — he goes under my shorts ... And he touches my penis," the document said.
Hays was principal of Deep Creek in the Gresham-Barlow School District from 2005-09. The alleged abuse of the three students occurred during those years. The girls did not report it until 2016.
Clackamas County District Attorney Scott Healy told The Outlook "the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the defendant and the results of the investigation will be submitted to the District Attorney's office and we will consider charges at that time."
A court document refers to a seven-page memo authored by Healy that said he had declined to prosecute because both female plaintiffs "had credibility issues" although he also "opined in the memorandum that he 'personally believe(d)' both plaintiffs' accusations that they were touched in a sexual manner.'"
Greg Kafoury, attorney for the unnamed woman said "the district attorney has advised the families he is taking a serious look at it and we should expect an answer in a month."
For its part, the Gresham-Barlow School District said in a statement that it "fully cooperated in the criminal investigation."
Hays' attorney did not return a call for comment.
Savannah Smith, now age 19, has struggled in life since the abuse. But now, she is working two part-time jobs and has an understanding boyfriend. College is a possibility for her but she says "I'm not making any plans."
Savannah Smith said the abuse "impacted my whole entire life. I never felt normal. I felt like something was wrong with me."
Although identified in the civil court documents only with initials, Savannah Smith said she is speaking out now because she wants to "bring awareness to the community" about the alleged abuse.
After the alleged abuse began, Savannah left school and was taught at home until she transferred to East Orient Elementary School, at first only for half days, with her mom Kathy always on hand. She had a rocky school career, missing large chunks of school and being taught at home, but was helped by intensive therapy.
Savannah's mom, Kathy Smith, wants Hays to be criminally prosecuted. And she is certain there are other victims of Hays alleged abuse who could come forward and strengthen a criminal case.
"People don't understand the difference between civil and criminal," she said.
Kathy Smith said the third child coming forward is a positive development, but added "I'm not hopeful. I'm very concerned that nothing is going to happen."
Savannah Smith decided she did not want to testify in court in the civil case and settled for $425,000 in January.
Days later, a Multnomah County jury awarded $3 million to the other alleged victim, now a 21-year-old woman, who said Hays sexually abused her when she was in second, third and fourth grades at Deep Creek.
The Gresham-Barlow School District declined to say whether it would appeal the civil case, and noted "we continue to evaluate all options as appropriate."
Court documents allege Hays called students into his office regularly, closing the door and blinds, for "lunch with the principal" or to be quizzed on the multiplication tables.
According to court documents, the president of the Deep Creek booster club loudly confronted Hays, telling him that meeting with students alone in his office was "exceedingly inappropriate."
Hays refused to cooperate in the case. In a deposition in the civil case, Hays refused to answer any questions. He refused to even give his name or say where he was born.
In a 2017 letter to prosecutor Healy, Kathy Smith detailed the havoc the abuse caused Savannah and asked that Hays be criminally prosecuted.
"Though I have always felt that child sex abuse was a terrible crime, I had no idea the horrendous damage it does to children until I lived through this with my daughter," the letter to the prosecutor said.
She said Hays "took her innocence, trust and happiness and replaced it with fear, self-hatred and fragility."
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