US Supreme Court rejects former MCPS teacher’s request to overturn child sexual assault conviction

CORRECTION (March 31, 2021) — An earlier version of this story stated Vigna represented himself at trial. This post has been corrected.

A former Montgomery County Public School teacher who was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple female elementary students lost his bid at the country’s highest legal level possible to try and overturn it.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected John Vigna’s petition, which was filed in January. The news was first reported by The Daily Record.

The case, labeled solely as one line that read “VIGNA, JOHN V MARYLAND,” was included in the rejection portion of the high court’s order list issued on March 22.

Vigna, who taught at Cloverly Elementary in Silver Spring, was sentenced in 2017 to 48 years in prison for sexually assaulting four female students over a 15-year period.

In his petition to the court, Vigna argued that his conviction shouldn’t stand because the trial judge wouldn’t allow witnesses to testify on behalf of his appropriate behavior with students. During trial, Vigna testified that he never had intentional inappropriate contact with students.

A 2016 class on “body safety” triggered the investigation that led to his arrest and conviction, said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy at the time Vigna was convicted.

“The person teaching the body safety class watched the girl begin to shrink down, and put her head on the desk,” McCarthy said, adding the instructors talked to the student. “They found out and confirmed their own suspicions that she had been inappropriately touched.”

In one case, a third-grader reported that Vigna would put her on his lap, with his hands on her hips and move her back and forth. When she tried to get off his lap, he would resist.

There were five victims named in the 15-count indictment identifying Vigna. One of the victims who came forward is now in her 20s and she told prosecutors she was inappropriately touched by Vigna as far back as 2001.

Vigna’s case divided the school community, with former students, parents and colleagues coming to his defense, even after the conviction. He was described by some supporters as an exemplary teacher who loved teaching.

His wife of 22 years, Anita, described him an affectionate teacher who never would harm a student. He showed affection toward his students in “a way no longer seen as loving,” she said.

The judge thought that kind of testimony was irrelevant in this case. Vigna had worked for the Montgomery County Public Schools system since 1992.

In August 2020, Vigna’s attempt to overturn his conviction was rejected by Maryland’s Court of Appeals, which referenced the trial judge’s decision on testimony to be “harmless” to the outcome.

At the time of Vigna’s sentencing, McCarthy said the punishment delivered was just.

“The circuit court judge who presided over this case made a comment in court, he thought the jury got it right, and so do we,” McCarthy said.

WTOP staff contributed to this report.

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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