He was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the prosecutor told jurors.
Byron Wallace was a dedicated math teacher, spiritual adviser and mentor committed to his students and his faith. But Wallace, she argued, was also a manipulative operator with a shameful secret life who groomed emotionally vulnerable teenage girls for sex.
“He’s going after attractive females with daddy issues. He’s an operator,” Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Maria Wilson said in her closing argument Wednesday before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurel White. “Wallace was so reckless with how he did things – he had already crossed so many lines. He’s not about to show restraint when he’s about to enjoy the fruits of his labors.”
Jurors continued to deliberate Thursday in the case against Wallace, the popular Inderkum High School teacher arrested in October 2015 on allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old female student in 2014.
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A second student came forward in the days after Wallace’s October 2015 arrest to say that she and Wallace engaged in a sex act when she was 17. One of the former students has since filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages.
Wallace faces 10 charges connected to alleged acts with the two when they were students, including felony counts of oral copulation with a minor and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Wilson presented jurors with excerpts from flirtatious email messages between Wallace and one of the girls. In one of the messages, Wallace tells the girl, “We have to get off of this email,” saying that he had opened a phone number for the two to exchange text messages.
Later, Wilson argued, Wallace accepted hundreds of dollars from one of the girls to purchase pairs of high-priced sneakers from an Arden Fair department store. In a message that followed the purchase, the girl appears to worry about the future of their relationship: “I don’t want this to turn into you being in this only for the materialistic benefits. ... I want you to be in this because you want me for me.”
“She is in love with this man,” Wilson told jurors.
The panel also viewed photos of a naked and semi-nude Wallace allegedly sent to one of the girls.
Taken together, the emails and photos “fill out (Wallace’s) character,” Wilson argued, adding that the messages prove that their liaisons progressed “far beyond flirting.”
Wallace has maintained his innocence from the outset of the case. In his closing argument, defense counsel David Bonilla told of students and fellow educators who sang Wallace’s praises. One student, he said, called Wallace “an angel” for helping to turn his life around. Citing other teachers, Bonilla described Wallace as a “professional” who “never acted inappropriately with students.”
The words, he said, carried extra weight because the teachers “are mandatory reporters” bound by law to report such behavior, arguing that “nothing in the texts or emails indicate that sex acts occurred. There’s nothing in the evidence that says that they did something together.”
Bonilla contrasted that with his depiction of one of the two alleged victims in the case. The defense lawyer said she was a compulsive liar motivated by jealousy and the promise of a hefty civil payout who aggressively sought her teacher’s attention before turning on him when she believed another student had caught his eye.
“It’s payback time for Mr. Wallace,” Bonilla said. “This isn’t a 13- or 14-year-old. This is someone graduating high school. She knows what she’s doing.
“She had told so many different stories about Mr. Wallace,” Bonilla said. “(She) has a rather large lawsuit going right now, but this case directly affects that. She has a very strong interest in making Wallace suffer.”
Wilson, however, said Wallace took advantage of girls who “made their mistakes, made bad decisions.”
“He thought nothing of dirtying these girls up,” Wilson said. “They craved the attention that Mr. Wallace gave them (but) he failed. He was the adult. He was supposed to be their teacher.”