Closing arguments were expected to conclude this morning in a civil trial where two girls sued the Sacramento City Unified School District on charges that a physical education teacher sexually assaulted them.
Attorneys for two girls on Thursday asked a Sacramento Superior Court jury to award the plaintiffs anywhere from $11.7 million to $15.2 million.
"What would somebody pay to not go through what these girls went through,and what they're going to go through?" plaintiffs lawyer Kenneth Powell said.
The lawyer for the school district did not complete her closing argument Thursday, but told jurors the plaintiffs need "hard evidence" to prove liability and "this case is lacking in that."
Although both girls testified in the trial that they were molested by the coach, the attorney for the school district, Amanda Uhrhammer, questioned the credibility of each of them.
Urhammer said the older one of the girls, identified in the lawsuit as "Jane Doe," first identified her step-father as her molester but "was forced" to change her story and redirect her allegations toward the coach in order to exonerate her mother's husband.
"Her family told her to lie about it, and she did," Uhrhammer said.
The younger girl - Susan Doe" - changed her story during the course of an investigation from "nothing happened to me" to "he pulled down my pants" and touched her.
The girls, who are now 15 and 11, charged in their lawsuit that the the molestations took place at John H. Still K-8 School in the Meadowview area from the 2004-05 school year through November of 2007.
They named Abdol Hossein Mhrdadi as the P.E. coach who molested them.
Mehrdadi denied molesting the girls and no charges were ever filed against him. District officials have since placed him on paid administrative leave. He was initially named as a defendant in the suit but was dismissed as a result of a pretrial settlement. No terms were disclosed on the settlement because it did not involve the expenditure of public money, his lawyer said.
"Jane Doe," the first girl to make the accusations, lodged them after her step-father had already been arrested on charges of raping her. In making the accusations against the teacher, the girl recanted her allegations against her step-father, prompting prosecutors to drop the charges against him.
Plaintiffs lawyer Gigi M. Knudtson agreed that the step-father raped the girl but said he got the idea from stories he heard "Jane Doe" tell her mother about the coach.
"(Jane Doe) told you here, the coach started touching her first, and then she was molested by her step-dad," Knudston said. "The step-dad started molesting her because he heard her tell her mom about the coach."
Knudtson said that the step-father then "started treating her like his sex slave."
The step-father's name is being withheld because it could help identify his step-daughter.
Urhammer said "Jane Doe" never mentioned the coach when she first made the allegations about her step-father to her mother. The girl repeated the allegations about her step-father when she went to see the doctor for a medical issue related to the reputed sexual attack, again without mentioning the coach, according to Urhammer. It was the same thing when "Jane Doe" spoke to police and when she was interviewed by a trained forensic interviewer, the school district's lawyer said.
"It is abhorrent what (the step-father) did to her," Urhammer said. "It's abhorrent what her family did to her afterwards. They told her, you better fix this. How do you fix it? Blame somebody else, and that's exactly what she did."
The plaintiffs' lawyers argued that the school district is liable because it negligently hired the coach and failed to train its staff to supervise teachers and spot signs of child molestation.
Knudtson said the district "didn't care about that school" because "they were at the bottom of the barrel," academically speaking, with a student body that was predominantly lower-income.
"These children should have been safe, and the district let them down," Knudtson told the jury.
Judge Alan G. Perkins is presiding over the case.