HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The trial of Dean Lakey, the Henrico middle school gym teacher accused of sexual assault by a former student, will end today as the jury prepares to render a verdict. The presentation of evidence in the three-day trial began Tuesday, and both Lakey and his accuser took the stand over two days of testimony.
Lakey was arrested in September 2021, after one of his former students disclosed that he had sexually assaulted her in 2017. Lakey was originally charged with one count of rape, two counts of forcible sodomy and three counts of indecent liberties with a minor as a custodian. The prosecution has now reduced those charges to object sexual penetration and indecent liberties by a custodian.
Two Days of Testimony
Lakey’s trial began on Tuesday, May 31 with commonwealth’s attorney Kelly Cotting calling several witnesses, including the victim herself, to build the case against Lakey. The case relied on direct testimony from the victim, as well as accounts from the victim’s friend and then-boyfriend, both of whom she had separately disclosed the assault to.
The commonwealth also called the “forensic interviewer” who recorded a “non-leading” conversation with the victim, portions of which were played in court, in which the victim described the assault, which was alleged to have occurred in a school bathroom in March 2017.
The interview was conducted after the ex-boyfriend’s mother, a mandatory reporter, overheard the two arguing, after which the ex-boyfriend told her about the disclosure the victim made. The mother then spoke with law enforcement and Child Protective Services.
The defense focused on attacking the credibility of the accuser, detailing what they said were inconsistencies in the versions of the accusation made by the victim at different times. According to the version of the disclosure testified to by the ex-boyfriend and his mother, the victim initially said that marks visible on the inside of her thighs were bite marks left by Lakey. She later admitted to him this was a lie, and that they were in fact self-inflicted cuts.
The defense was also fixated on the question of why the victim used a restroom in front of the gym – which the defense claimed would have been gated off at the time – instead of one closer to the room in which she attended an after-school club. The victim maintained that she used the restroom because it was nearer to the school entrance, through which she left to go home.
The Commonwealth Rests
On the second day of the trial, the commonwealth called on Genevieve Bradshaw, a nurse who worked at Short Pump Middle School at the time of the alleged assault. She testified that she saw Lakey several times a week in the school after students had been dismissed, and that contrary to written rules, it was not unusual for students to come and go unattended through the hallways after school.
A key aspect of the defense’s argument was that when the gym was rented out by Henrico Recreation and Parks – which the defense maintained it was on all of the nights in March on which the victim could have been assaulted – and that during those times, a gate would have been lowered blocking access by students to the gym hallway.
Bradshaw testified that when she worked at Short Pump Middle School, she often left after 6 p.m., while the gate was supposedly lowered around 4 p.m. “It usually wasn’t down by the time I left the building.”
The commonwealth rested its case at 10:51 a.m. The jury was lead from the courtroom, and after a brief recess, the defense made a motion to dismiss the case entirely without hearing from the majority of the defense witnesses.
“There are just too many inconsistencies,” Lakey’s attorney said, pointing to information given about the gate and apparent changes between the version of the assault described at different times.
The commonwealth asked the court to allow the jury to decide, saying, “[The jury] are the ones to decide [the victim’s] credibility.”
The court ultimately ruled that the trial would proceed.
Mounting a Defense
The defense called several witnesses before Lakey himself took the stand in his own defense. Most were colleagues – those who worked with him in Henrico Public Schools as well as on the Richmond Strikers travel soccer team.
Six teachers, all of whom had worked with Lakey in some capacity, were called to testify, and all attested to his good character and coaching activities. Several corroborated the timeline of his coaching at nearby Deep Run High School, which they said typically lasted from 3:30 p.m. to around 6:00 p.m.
They also said they had never seen or heard of any instance where Lakey left his class unattended or had repeated absences.
Five witnesses denied having heard of allegations raised by the commonwealth during the first day of the trial, in which it was claimed that Lakey had called a group of basketball players at Short Pump Middle School “faggots” during a practice.
One witness, however, had heard of the allegation and offered his version of the events, which he had heard about from Lakey himself and other teachers. Frank Ford, who is now retired, said he taught at Short Pump Middle School for 19 years and had been close to Lakey.
“He used the word faggots,” Ford said. “He didn’t call them faggots. He said, ‘Don’t do it like – that.'”
Nevertheless, Ford said he could attest to Lakey’s good reputation in the community.
The defense also called an employee of the Richmond Strikers, who testified that Lakey worked for the team during the time period in which the assault was alleged to have occurred.
Finally, at 1:14 p.m., Lakey himself – who was present at the defense table throughout the trial – took the stand.
In His Own Words
When asked whether the allegations against him were true, Lakey said, “No, absolutely not.”
Lakey also addressed his use of a slur during a boys basketball practice, admitting that he had done so and been suspended for a single game by the school as a result. Lakey became visibly emotional when talking about the incident, saying, “That’s one of my biggest regrets ever in teaching.”
For the majority of Lakey’s testimony, the defense focused on his schedule, seeking to prove that on all of the days of March 2017 when the victim stayed after school for a school-sponsored club, Lakey was elsewhere in the timeframe of the alleged assault, which the victim said occurred around 7 p.m.
“That was the busiest time of the year,” Lakey said.
Using a combination of practice schedules, credit card receipts, al-anon meeting times and texts with his family and colleagues, the defense sought to account for the times during which the assault could have occurred.
During much of the time, it was confirmed that Lakey was either attending out-of-state competitions, had credit card receipts showing shopping trips or was otherwise occupied on school business for which solid documentation was provided in exhibits furnished by the defense.
At certain points, Lakey could not produce documentary evidence of his whereabouts, but relied on the fact that during one such gap the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association was using the school’s gym, which the defense argued meant the gate would have been lowered, blocking the victim’s access to the location of the alleged assault.
To fill other gaps, Lakey relied on his work with the Richmond Strikers, for whom he prepared equipment at various facilities in which games and camps were held. While Lakey produced pay stubs showing he had done work for the Strikers during the month in question, his hours were not reported day by day.
On cross-examination, the commonwealth asked Lakey whether he had ever provided the documentation of his whereabouts to police, CPS or the commonwealth’s attorney. He answered that he had not, and that in fact, he had never spoken to police or CPS at all.
A Henrico detective scheduled an interview with Lakey in June 2021, before charges were filed, but Lakey broke that appointment on the advice of a lawyer.
“I would have spoken with CPS if they had done it in a timely manner,” Lakey said.
As a result, the commonwealth argued that the only person who could testify to the accuracy of the schedules and documentation Lakey provided was Lakey himself.
At 3:40 p.m., after more than two hours of testimony, Lakey stepped down, bringing the presentation of evidence to a close. The jury was lead out of courtroom number four, and the court entered a recess.
The last day of Lakey’s trial will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the closing arguments of the prosecution and defense. Then, the jury instructions will be delivered, which inform the jurors of the applicable law and the burden of proof they must consider in weighing the evidence. Finally, the jury will attempt to reach a verdict.