2021 | Courts

UPDATED: Supreme Court declines to hear former MCPS teacher’s appeal of sex assault conviction

Vigna was sentenced in 2017 to 48 years in jail for assaulting female students

This story was updated at 12 p.m. on April 11, 2021, to remove a reference to John Vigna’s attorney representation at trial. The story previously said Vigna represented himself at trial, which was incorrect.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month denied a former Montgomery County teacher’s request to consider overturning his conviction of sexually assaulting elementary school students.

In January, John Vigna filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking the country’s top court to review and overturn his conviction. Vigna’s petition says that testimony about his history of appropriate behavior with students should have been allowed during his trial.

The Supreme Court last week declined to hear the case. The Daily Record reported last week on the Supreme Court’s decision.

A former Cloverly Elementary School teacher, Vigna was sentenced in 2017 to 48 years in jail for assaulting four female students over the course of 15 years.

Court records say Vigna would have students sit on his lap while the class watched videos or did independent work. He would then touch the students inappropriately, documents say.

Vigna, who had worked for MCPS since 1992, had attorneys throughout his court proceedings, but represented himself at trial.

The judge did not allow witnesses to testify that they thought he interacted appropriately with children.

The witnesses included fellow teachers, a former Cloverly principal and parents, according to court documents.

Vigna said during his trial that he often hugged, kissed and consoled his students because he was raised in a large Italian family that “emphasized physical affection.” He denied ever having inappropriate interactions with students and attributed any conduct that a student could have interpreted as sexual to be accidental.

During Vigna’s trial, the judge allowed the witnesses to testify that Vigna was “law-abiding,” which they often did by discussing his interactions with children.

But the trial judge decided that testimony directly about his interactions with students was irrelevant, particularly because well-regarded and high-profile people have historically been found to have sexually assaulted children.

In August, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied Vigna’s request to overturn his conviction, saying the omission of the testimony was “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com