Monday, January 26, 2009

The presumed innocent deserve protection, regardless of their gender

We don't know what happened in this case out of the Boston area, but a woman has been accused of statutory rape and has had her reputation destroyed in the media based on an untried allegation. A "trial" on a rape charge in the media where the "evidence" is always stacked in favor of the accuser is never just, regardless of the gender of the accused. Just as presumed innocent males should have their identities protected until a conviction, so should presumed innocent females.

Ex-teacher charged with rape

Accused of having 2-year relationship with teen she knew

BROCKTON - Police described a former Abington elementary school teacher yesterday as an obsessive predator who allegedly seduced a 13-year-old boy and carried on a sexual relationship with him for nearly two years.

Christine A. McCallum, 29, had become like a surrogate mother to the youngster, who was being raised by a single father, Plymouth County prosecutors said yesterday. The relationship allegedly progressed to snuggling and kissing after McCallum plied the boy with alcohol. Then on Feb. 7, 2006, she allegedly had sex with the boy for the first time, said Michael Scott, Plymouth assistant district attorney.

The boy, who is now a 16-year-old student at Rockland High School, told police that over the next 21 months he and McCallum had intercourse about every other day, for a total of "approximately 300 times," according to a police report filed yesterday in Brockton District Court. She gave him a cellphone so they could communicate, authorities said, and wrote him a series of letters that, while not overtly sexual, depicted an obsessive woman in the throes of an intimate relationship.

"We truly believe that this person was a predator," Abington Police Chief David G. Majenski said at a news conference. "I would hope there are no other victims, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out."

Defense lawyer Frederick McDermott of Brockton disputed the charges and said there was no evidence his client had sex with the teenager. McCallum had become like a surrogate mother, McDermott said, nothing more.

McCallum has been charged with seven counts of statutory rape stemming from seven alleged encounters that investigators said they were able to document. She appeared in Brockton District Court yesterday morning with her husband of five years, Scott, at her side and pleaded not guilty to the three counts that allegedly occurred in 2006 when the teenager lived in Abington.

McCallum was released on her own recognizance, outfitted with a GPS monitoring device, and reported yesterday afternoon to Hingham District Court, where she was arraigned on the remaining charges. She pleaded not guilty. The court imposed the same conditions. The other four counts of statutory rape allegedly occurred in multiple locations in Rockland, where McCallum and the alleged victim currently live, according to police.

Each count carries a penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

"These are very disturbing allegations, especially when they involve someone who is in a position of public trust within a school," said Timothy J. Cruz, Plymouth district attorney, after the brief hearing. "I'm concerned about the victim in this case. I'm concerned about a 13-year-old child because that's what you are when you are 13 - you are a child."

McCallum's father-in-law, Kenneth, dismissed the allegations in a brief phone interview from his home in Coventry, R.I., the hometown of both Christine and her husband.

"I believe they're all false," he said. "It sounds like [the teenager] was just bragging to a friend."

The youth and his father lived for a period in a house owned by Christine and Scott McCallum and paid them rent.

Christine McCallum began working for the Abington School District as a tutor and paraprofessional during the 2006 academic year, according to Peter G. Schafer, Abington's school superintendent.

She was fired Thursday from her current job as a fifth-grade teacher at Woodsdale Elementary School, according to Schafer, who declined to provide details. The allegations are "of great concern and we will be fully cooperating with authorities in their investigation," Schafer said by phone. "We do everything humanly possible to create the safest environment for the children."
McCallum met the alleged victim at the Abington Public Library when she began tutoring his younger brother for free with their father's consent, prosecutors said. She also acted as their babysitter. The alleged victim was never one of her students.

In the letters McCallum allegedly wrote to the victim, she pledged her love and urged him to keep their relationship secret and leave no clues that might alert her husband, according to Scott, the Plymouth assistant district attorney, who read excerpts aloud at her first arraignment.

"There's no question that I will choose you over this job," she allegedly wrote of her teaching position. "That's a very easy decision."

Scott also read what he described as a message to the boy on McCallum's MySpace page.
"It's hard to be in love with you and set boundaries for you," she wrote. "It's hard to kiss you and tell you no. It's hard to want someone to take care of me when I have to be the one taking care of everyone else."

The boy's father discovered the letters in 2006 and was disturbed but did not think that McCallum and his son had a sexual relationship, according to Rockland Police Chief John R. Llewellyn.

"He couldn't comprehend that this person was a predator," Llewellyn said.

McCallum's lawyer disputed that the letters contained evidence of a sexual relationship.

McDermott said the letters showed only that she had served as a surrogate mother until the relationship ended in November 2007. McCallum caught the boy stealing liquor from her home, McDermott said, and when she tried to impose boundaries, they stopped talking.

Recently, one of the teenager's friends told her mother about the alleged sexual relationship, authorities said.

That mother told the teenager's father, who spoke with his son and then went to Rockland police Tuesday morning, police said. McCallum was arrested Thursday.

Edwin Toomey, 12, who graduated from Center Elementary School in Abington last year when McCallum worked there, said she was excellent at her job.

"I thought she was awesome," said Edwin, who was interviewed with the permission of his father, Robert. "She was cool; she wasn't like other teachers. . . . She was kind of, like, young . . . she was very pretty."

Robert Toomey said he knew McCallum through his roles as a parent, a volunteer at the school, and a sometime substitute teacher.

"She was professional. She had a solid reputation, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

Globe correspondent Franci Richardson Ellement contributed to this report.
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