Acquittal, mistrial for former Fairfax Co. teacher accused of sex crimes with teen student

A Fairfax County, Virginia, jury acquitted a former middle school teacher on one count of having an illegal sexual relationship with a teen, and a judge declared a mistrial on two remaining counts.

Matthew Snell, who taught at Thoreau Middle School in Vienna, was charged in 2019 with sex crimes including two juveniles, but the trial involved crimes against one victim.

After deliberating for two days, jurors on Thursday found Snell not guilty of carnal knowledge of a teen. However, they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on a second count of carnal knowledge, as well as a count of indecent liberties with a child in a custodial relationship, and the judge declared a mistrial on those two counts.

“I have maintained my innocence for the entire 861 days the commonwealth of Virginia has fought to keep me incarcerated without bail,” Snell said in a statement issued to WTOP’s news partner NBC Washington by his attorney Damon Colbert. “The commonwealth has had over 800 days to gather evidence, and today a jury spoke clearly as to the quality of the evidence the commonwealth has used to keep me in a cage.”

Colbert told WTOP: “Mr. Snell greatly appreciates that a jury of his peers carefully and thoughtfully considered the evidence presented at trial.”

Snell was arrested in El Paso, Texas, in October 2019, a day after parents found inappropriate texts between him and a teenager, the police said. The police claim he was trying to leave the country.

Fairfax County prosecutors are expected to seek to retry Snell on the two counts on which the jury was unable to reach a verdict during a status hearing on Feb. 25.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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