Chittenden County prosecutors last week dismissed charges against David Scibek – the Colchester resident and Burlington Technical Center teacher accused of injuring a student in his classroom – saying a second trial wouldn’t present any new evidence.
The decision last Friday ended a yearlong-plus legal saga for Scibek, who was charged with misdemeanor simple assault in November 2017 after a 16-year-old student alleged he performed a pressure point technique on her neck, causing her to fall and injure her back.
In a statement sent out Monday, Scibek said the state “has finally done the right thing” after more than 14 months in pursuit of a “baseless and uncorroborated charge.”
“After serving for over 35 years in emergency services, including 22 of them in law enforcement, and being charged with a crime that I did not commit has caused me and my family immeasurable trauma,” wrote Scibek, a former Burlington cop.
A trial last November ended with a deadlocked jury, forcing prosecutors to decide whether they would retry Scibek. Friday, they decided to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning the charge cannot be refiled.
“We spoke the victim about it, and her parents at least were on board,” Deputy State’s Attorney Franklin Paulino said. “It was hard enough, as you can imagine, to testify against a teacher that she used to like very much.”
At trial, the student said Scibek became upset when she refused to do push-ups as punishment for throwing paper across the room. She testified Scibek dug his fingers into her neck for more than five seconds causing “excruciating pain.”
“I was terrified,” she told jurors, saying her only thought was to “get out of the classroom.”
But several classmates painted what Paulino calls an “unclear” picture of the events, saying they didn’t witness the incident directly or only looked up once the student was the ground.
Scibek vehemently denied the student’s version of the events. He guessed his hands were on her for less than a second and said he never touched her neck, adding he’d performed the technique more than dozen times in his classroom without incident.
“I think I briefly felt her ear,” he testified. “At that point, she lets out a little squeal and a giggle, slides out of her chair and sits on the floor.”
Jurors deliberated for five hours before telling a judge they couldn’t reach consensus. Paulino said in a retrial, the prosecution would have again relied heavily on the alleged victim’s same testimony. More corroborating evidence would have strengthened the state’s case, he said.
Scibek is the former chief of the Malletts Bay Fire Department and is married to Nadine Scibek, an attorney and the Colchester Selectboard chairwoman, who attended Friday’s brief hearing. In his statement, he thanked his family, friends and the public for their “unwavering” support.
Scibek largely declined to comment after his trial, but minced no words Monday. He criticized prosecutors for ignoring or twisting his students’ statements to support their case and blasted his employer, the Burlington School District, from which he’s received “absolutely no support,” he wrote.
“I have not worked for over a year and am still on unpaid administrative leave … They did not even want to hear my side of the story, despite my offering it,” Scibek wrote. “They simply accused me of choking a student and throwing her to the ground.
“They exercised no due diligence by making this unilateral and uninformed decision,” he continued. “And I have suffered for it.”
Paulino said he spoke with several jurors prior to his decision. He declined to elaborate on any feedback but felt the hung jury showed “at least some jurors … validated the victim’s testimony and felt that this was not right.”
Though he was disappointed with the outcome, Paulino pointed to the lengthy deliberation and said the case was “a real example of a jury trial and the way it should be.”
Scibek had a different take.
“This case has been a horrifying and unconscionable example of unprofessionalism and incompetence,” he wrote. “You do not do this to honest, hard-working, law-abiding citizens.”