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 Don't think it could never happen to you.

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PostSubject: Don't think it could never happen to you.   Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:38 am

NEA member Michael Gallagher taught elementary school
in Abington, Pa., for 25 years until he was falsely accused of
sexual molestation and rape. After a nine-month nightmare,
he was fully exonerated. He has since retired with full benefits.
This is his story.


When I answered the door that cold, dismal morning
in December, I faced two detectives from the police
department.
“Are you Michael Gallagher?” one asked.
“Yes.”
“Someone’s filed a complaint against you, and we want you to
come to the station with us.” Confused and dazed, I asked if I
should call a lawyer.
“No,” they said, so I didn’t. That was my first big mistake.
At the station, my wife and I were put in separate rooms. Both
of us were questioned.
I was told that a student I taught 12 years ago had accused me
of sexually molesting her, raping her 20 times.
I was flabbergasted! Who would make such an accusation?
The police named a girl in my fifth-grade class in 1985. I couldn’t
really place her. That had been a good class, and only a few students
stood out.


I’ve taught more than 800 students in my 25 years in the classroom.
Why had this one made such a false accusation about me?
I went into teaching to help children, not harm them.
I answered the detectives’ questions, permitted them to search
my house, and even took a polygraph. These were all big mistakes
on my part.
When I was released after seven grueling hours, I finally used
my common sense and called my Pennsylvania State Education
Association attorney. Upset that I’d waited so long to call, he
made quick plans to represent me.
Incredibly, a month later, on January 22, 1998, I was arrested
and placed in a cell for three hours before my bail arraignment.
To my surprise and horror, every television camera in the
Delaware Valley filmed me, in handcuffs, accompanied by two
uniformed officers, walking into the courthouse.
With little formality, the judge set a preliminary hearing date
and bail, and I was released on my own recognizance — with one
condition. I could have no contact with children whatsoever.
Here I was, a well respected teacher and a law-abiding citizen,
being treated as a pedophile!


The school board suspended me immediately without pay. I
then began the longest journey of my life, aided by the unending
support of my entire family, district teachers, and friends.
Phyllis “Honey” Pertnoy, my local Association president,
wouldn’t rest until I was proven innocent.
She raised much needed money, spoke in my defense all over
the country, and pledged to be a character witness. It made me
proud to be an NEA member.
While waiting for trial, the state attempted to remove my
teaching certification. The notice stated that an indictment or
arrest was, in effect, as good as a conviction.
What few rights teachers really have, I thought. How much we
need our Association to fight for us.
Finally, in October, an assistant district attorney, at our urging,
questioned my accuser again. The young woman contradicted
her earlier testimony and failed a polygraph test. She had lied
about everything.
A few days later, at a news conference, the district attorney’s
office announced my total exoneration. The media—from local
newspapers to Dateline NBC—picked up the story.
Could such a tragedy happen to you? I’m hearing from people
all over the country who, just like me, have been falsely accused.


Here are some tips:
• If accused by any law enforcement officer, never talk without
an attorney. Don’t feel compelled to discuss your innocence.
• If you are not under arrest, don’t go with the police—your
attorney can make these arrangements.
• Talk with no one about the accusation except your attorney
and immediate family members.
• Be wary of any law enforcement agency. Most are ethical,
some are not.
• Always remember, there’s a tendency for administrators and
police to believe the accuser, not you.
• Above all, be cautious. I wasn’t
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