The yearslong prosecution of a former elementary school teacher in Montgomery County came to a conclusion on Friday. John Vigna, 57, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse for crimes committed against students at Cloverly Elementary School in Silver Spring over a 15-year period, announced the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The charges included one count of sexual child abuse and three counts of sexual abuse of a minor for crimes between 2001 and 2016, when he was first charged. He taught at Cloverly for over two decades.

As part of the plea agreement, Vigna is expected to avoid further prison time. In addition, new charges brought against him related to another victim were dropped. He also avoids a second trial, as do the victims.

Vigna’s lawyers, Isabelle Raquin and Steve Mercer, did not respond to requests for comment.

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The circuit court plea represents the first time Vigna has admitted guilt. For years, he denied accusations against him.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 7. Prosecutors will request a 30-year suspended prison sentence with probation supervised by the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation. He will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and can have no unsupervised contact with minors. Vigna faces up to 23 years in prison should he violate the terms of his probation.

Vigna has already spent more than six years in prison as a result of his 2017 trial and conviction on four counts of sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 48 years, but in 2023, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge determined that Vigna’s legal representation was inadequate, The Washington Post reported. The judge, David Lease, struck down the convictions and ordered a new trial. Vigna’s sentence was tossed out, and he was freed on bond.

“The evidence of Mr. Vigna’s guilt was not overwhelming and he was acquitted of some counts,” Lease wrote in his ruling. “There was no physical evidence presented, and the case turned on the credibility of the witnesses, including Mr. Vigna, who testified.”

In announcing the plea agreement, the state’s attorney’s office cited Vigna’s admission of guilt as crucial to the deal, which “prevents further trauma to the victims who courageously participated in one trial and were retraumatized by the criminal justice system when the original conviction was overturned.”

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The office confirmed the victims supported the plea agreement.

“This is an appropriate resolution given all of the challenges that would arise should the case go to trial,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy. “The State received unfavorable rulings in pre-trial motions hearings that would have required some of the victims’ cases to be tried separately. The passage of time itself presents additional hurdles to overcome. The defendant’s admission of guilt following nearly a decade of denial is vindication for the victims and the community.”

According to The Post, prosecutors alleged that in 2001 and 2002 Vigna fondled a fourth-grader while she sat on his lap, and also asked her to change in a closet in his classroom with the door slightly open.

Vigna’s school formally reprimanded him in 2008 and 2013, The Post recounted, related to the teacher letting children sit on his lap, and having inappropriate physical contact with them. In 2013, Vigna signed a declaration saying he would not have any physical contact with his students.

Hugo Kugiya is a reporter for the Express Desk and has formerly reported for the Associated Press, Newsday, and the Seattle Times.

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