A jury’s guilty verdicts in a trial of a former Miamisburg teacher on sex charges involving a middle school student “sends a signal to the community,” said the prosecutor who got those convictions.
Jessica Langford pounded the table once and sobbed uncontrollably Friday afternoon for several minutes after the jury of eight men and four women said the Centerville woman was guilty of six counts related to having sex with a 14-year-old in May 2017 in her Miamisburg Middle School classroom.
“All of the defendants actions, her words – both before and after – certainly points in the direction of the guilty verdict, which I think the jury justifiably arrived at,” said Montgomery County Assistant Prosecutor Michele Henne.
Several teachers in the region have faced criminal charges for their involvement with students, but it has been uncommon for the cases to go to a jury trial. Henne said the conviction will have an impact on future cases.
“It sends a signal to the community that any teacher needs to respect the appropriate boundaries with their students,” she said. “And to respect their relationships as authority figures within our society, as authority figures within the school as mentorships as opposed to relationships.”
Langford’s defense attorney Lawrence Greger declined comment on the verdict on three counts of sexual battery and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. The verdict came after about five hours of deliberation following nearly 11 hours of testimony this week, all of it offered by prosecutors.
Key testimony came from a 15-year-old boy who told jurors he was a 14-year-old eighth-grader at the middle school when he had oral sex and intercourse with Langford on the morning of May 23, 2017.
The teen accuser gave the jury a detailed account of what he said was a “20- to 30-minute” sexual encounter with Langford in her locked classroom prior to the start of the last day of school.
After administrators questioned Langford about being alone with the teen, she was placed on administrative leave later that day and resigned in a letter dated May 23.
Miamisburg Superintendent David Vail said Friday he felt “relief that it has come to a conclusion and we’re moving forward.”
Langford was indicted in November. That same month she pleaded not guilty to all charges and was free on her own recognizance.
Langford will remain free, Judge Timothy O’Connell said. Henne said Langford’s freedom has not been an issue and she was satisfied with the judge’s decision.
Langford’s sentencing is the focus of a May 14 hearing, O’Connell said.
Both the defense and prosecution during closing arguments Thursday afternoon questioned the truthfulness of key players in the trial.
Henne said Langford lied to conceal her involvement with the teen and sought to manipulate him by ensuring he told others a cover story.
“She’s making sure he’s sticking to that cover story,” she said.
“She’s making sure he tells them exactly what they agreed on before – that he’s not folding under the pressure under the school administration,” Henne added.
She said Langford’s actions were comparable to those of a sexual predator.
“Her behavior (deserves) a guilty verdict,” Henne said.
“Where sex acts and sex abuse of children occur, they don’t occur in the open courtroom. They don’t in front of a large crowd. Child abuse happens behind closed doors … where no one else is there to see,” Henne said.
Defense attorney Greger told jurors the teen accuser’s testimony was suspect.
The student initially denied helping carry in food for a pizza party Langford had that week in her classroom before correcting it after seeing a video of his actions.
Greger said the teen’s description of the clothing worn by his client May 23 was wrong.
The accuser “continued to lie to you – the ladies and gentlemen of the jury – was that a lie for self preservation?”
Greger also asked the jury to ask why no police officers investigating the case testified in the trial.
“You’ve not heard of any law enforcement investigations. Not one officer testified to taking part in any investigation and what part they played,” Greger said.
Assistant Prosecutor Bryan Moore told the jury Langford was looking for “escape routes” because of the video surveillance recorded by Miamisburg Middle School on May 23, 2017.
“Jessica Langford cannot escape that video that demonstrates that she was alone with (the teen) for more than 28 minutes,” Moore said. “She cannot escape from that. She cannot hide from that.”
About a dozen witnesses testified this week in the trial, including Miamisburg Middle School Principal Kelly Thomas, who said she found Langford’s door locked and lights off when she went to investigate a report from teacher Kevin Osborn, who saw Langford and the student together before classes began that day.
The student’s father, a local police officer, also testified that his son told him he had sex with Langford.
The teen’s testimony came near the end of the prosecution’s case and detailed the encounter.