MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- After the conclusion of a three-day trial involving allegations of Manatee school administrators turning a blind eye to the inappropriate and criminal behavior of Manatee High football coach Rod Frazier, the school district is now one step closer to putting the ordeal behind it.
"I feel vindicated a little bit,” says Matthew Kane, the former assistant principal at Manatee High who was acquitted of any wrongdoing. “I feel like I got my name back somewhat."
Kane was one of three administrators charged with both a misdemeanor and a felony count of failing to report child abuse. A felony conviction was punishable by up to 5 years in prison, though none of the three people charged were found guilt of the charge. Both Kane and Robert Gagnon were acquitted by Judge Peter Dubensky. The third administrator, Gregg Faller, was found guilty on the misdemeanor count but not on the felony.
It’s a result that’s being met with mixed feelings by the administrators involved.
"The past year and a half has not been fun,” Kane says. “It’s not fun to lose your job for something you don’t think you should have lost your job for."
The charges were filed after a Bradenton Police Department investigation into allegations made by a former student. In February 2013, the girl wrote a letter saying Frazier suggestively touched her and sent her inappropriate text messages over the course of two years. According to the victim’s statement, "When we were in [Frazier’s] office he would give me a hug, rub his hand on my upper leg, grab my thigh and butt …"
The letter was prompted by a November 2012 school district internal investigation that found accusations against Frazier were unfounded. The Bradenton Police Department disagreed with that conclusion, and recommended charges for all involved in the internal investigation.
"I believe it was a malicious and targeted prosecution from the beginning from the state attorney's office and the school board, based on [the accusations] being a political threat,” said former Manatee High principal Robert Gagnon.
At the time, Gagnon was an assistant superintendent with the district, and many speculate that he was on track to continue his rise through the ranks.
The prosecution focused on the 2012 changes to the state's child abuse laws that mandate school personnel report abuse. Doug Staley with the Child Protective Center says the law is among the strictest in the country.
"These changes that took place in 2012 made Florida the toughest state as far as mandatory reporting laws go,” Staley says. “Basically, the law says if you have a cause for concern or you suspect that child abuse has occurred -- you don’t have to know for sure, but if you suspect then you are required by the law to report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline."
In the end, the procession was unable to prove that two of the three administrators had any knowledge of abuse by Frazier.
"Anyone who sat and listened to these facts for the last couple of days has to understand that there are some clear, clear big questions,” says Brett Macintosh, Kane's attorney, in reference to the state's decision to prosecute. “We've been saying it since day one."