Sep. 8—A former Olathe teacher was found guilty of reckless stalking Wednesday after a half-day trial that included testimony from the victim, who is now 12.
The girl said she is scared to be alone at night and has nightmares, a year and a half after she learned her fourth-grade teacher was sexually attracted to her to the point of taking more than 240 pictures of her legs and buttocks.
"It makes me kind of scared of men now, just in general," the girl testified in the trial of 59-year-old James Loganbill of Lenexa.
Johnson County District Judge Thomas Sutherland found Loganbill guilty on the basis of the girl's testimony, that of several witnesses and Loganbill's own admissions to police.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 3, when Loganbill will face a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine.
Based on this case, the Kansas Legislature recently upgraded the crime of reckless stalking to a felony, which carries more prison time. The new law also closed a loophole that Loganbill's attorney hopes to overturn the conviction.
Loganbill did not testify at the trial, which was held without a jury and carried on a Zoom call viewed by more than 70 people.
Loganbill admitted to police in March 2020 that he was obsessed with the girl in his classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary School in Olathe, especially when she wore black leggings. Many of the 230 photos and 31 videos of her on his personal phone and his Olathe public schools-issued iPad were of the girl from the waist down wearing tights, testified Olathe Police Detective William King, the investigating officer.
Police also found evidence on the devices that Loganbill searched for the girl's competitive dance videos on YouTube, King said. He also used the devices, King said, to search for content involving teachers having sex with students and other porn sites, but investigators did not find child pornography on any of his devices.
"He knew it was something he shouldn't have done," King recalled Loganbill telling him with regard to photographing his student without her knowledge. She was 10 at the time. He was not accused of physical sexual contact.
"He found her attractive in the black tights," King said.
What King found striking about the photos and videos, which Loganbill turned over voluntarily, was "I didn't notice any pictures of her face."
Loganbill's lawyer, Carl Cornwell, said at the trial's outset that he expected a conviction, based on one of Sutherland's previous rulings in the case that denied Cornwell's request for dismissal. But Cornwell hopes to overturn the verdict on appeal because he says the evidence doesn't support a conviction based on the wording of the statute.
While his client admits and is remorseful about the behavior on which he was charged, Cornwell says that because the girl did not know she was being photographed she was not afraid at the time, which he said is required for someone to be convicted of reckless stalking under the statute as it was on the books when he was charged.
The girl's parents, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and others lobbied to get the law changed because of the potential for a legal challenge.
But Sutherland disagreed with Cornwell and agreed with the prosecution's assertion that Loganbill's conduct violated the original statute because, Sutherland said, it did not require the victim to be fearful at the time of the stalking.
The girl's friends first noticed Loganbill's troubling interest in their classmate and told their parents.
One of the parents reported it to the school principal on a Monday in March 2020 before the coronavirus shutdown. By the next day, Loganbill had resigned and later filed for retirement after three decades working at three different schools in the Olathe school district.
That parent, Krista Bolanos, said she felt angry and scared after learning about Loganbill's fixation on her daughter's friend.
"I mean, it's terrifying that this would happen to such young kids in a classroom where you're supposed to trust these teachers in the schools to keep your kid safe," she said.