No charges filed today against South Bay teacher accused of having sexual relationship with student
Terrance Smith, 32, teaches at Chula Vista HS
12:48 PM, Oct 30, 2012
5:14 AM, Nov 1, 2012
CHULA VISTA, Calif. -
The Chula Vista High School "Teacher of the Year" nominee, who police say had a several-year sexual relationship with an underage student, has been released as prosecutors continue to review the case Thursday.
No charges were filed Wednesday against Terrance Lee Smith, 32, who was arrested by detectives at Sweetwater Union High School District office on Monday morning.
The alleged victim contacted police on Oct. 19 to report the purported crimes, alleging they occurred between 2006 and 2008, starting when she was 16, Chula Vista police Capt. Gary Wedge said.
Wedge said the young woman's mother reported her suspicions to investigators. Investigators then questioned the woman and learned details of her interaction with Smith.
Police said the woman told them she had consensual sex with Smith in his classroom, his apartment and car. The relationship continued past her 18th birthday.
Investigators believe that Smith, a ninth-grade English instructor, may have engaged in similar illegal acts with at least one other student, though no additional alleged victims have been identified, the captain said.
The alleged victim was not one of Smith's students.
The suspect was booked into San Diego Central Jail but was released on Wednesday.
Police said Smith cannot be charged with unlawful sex with a minor because the statute of limitations ran out, so he is facing 14 counts of oral copulation. Police told 10News they have gathered even more evidence since his arrest Monday.
Smith was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday until prosecutors decided to further review the case.
"The district attorney's office has elected not to file charges at this time," said David Shapiro, Smith's attorney. "What I am encouraged about is the fact that they are taking time no to rush to judgment, not to pull the trigger unlike the agency who arrested him when he went to school Monday morning."
Shapiro said the credibility of the accuser would be an issue for the defense if a case is filed against Smith.
"Whenever there's a situation involving allegations of this kind, credibility certainly is an issue, it's certainly would be our position in the future if this case does get filed," said Shapiro. "Credibility is a gigantic issue in this case."
10News has learned Smith is married and recently became a father.
Viridiana Moreno, Smith's neighbor, told 10News, "They seemed happy. He was so excited about having someone in his life and settling down and having children."
Moreno's daughter was also one of Smith's students.
"She's up in college now," she said. "She was devastated. She was crying. He was always there for her, as a teacher, as a mentor, as a friend. He attended her Quinceanera.
Smith was one of 42 local educators nominated for one of the county's five 2012-13 teacher-of-the-year awards. He was not among the winners, who were named this month.
In his application, he wrote, "There is never a dull moment in my class." He also wrote about his passion for teaching and how he overcame a tough childhood to become a role model.
"I was so disappointed and shocked, and I couldn't believe it," Chula Vista High School senior Astrid Rea said when she heard the news.
"He has a wife and kids. I don't think he would ever do something like that," said student Carolina Torres. "If it's true, why would the girl come out in 2012, when that supposedly happened in 2008, 2006? That makes no sense. "
On Wednesday, dozens of students wearing white T-shirts and holding posters gathered in front of the school in support of Smith.
Former student Daniela Vera said Smith was always there for his students and never made her feel uncomfortable.
"He was very respectful, he never acted inappropriate with us or anything," she said.
Vera added, "Now that he has his life together, he's married, had a kid. He just got nominated for 'teacher of the year,' I think people are just trying to mess with his life."
A school district spokesman said he was "shocked" to learn of Smith's arrest, and that the district is fully cooperating with police.
Smith, a graduate of Chula Vista High, has been placed on paid administrative leave, 10News learned.