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Former teacher aide acquitted of sexual assault charges

After deliberating 3 1/2 hours, a Pierce County jury of three men and nine women found a former River Falls teacher aide not guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old boy.

The trial took two days. The verdict was returned shortly before 6 p.m. Friday.

The boy had accused Rebecca O'Malley-Tietz, now 35, of having sex with him 30 to 40 times at her home and in a parked car after they met when he attended the Harbor program for special needs students at the River Falls Academy during the 2007-08 school year. She was a special education aide there.

"The system works, and that is what it's designed to do," said O'Malley-Teitz's attorney, Mark Gherty, Monday morning.

The first degree child sexual assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.

The boy reported the alleged assaults to a social worker and his mother more than a year after they allegedly occurred.

When interviewed by a police investigator in October 2009, O'Malley-Tietz vehemently and repeatedly denied ever having sex with the boy. She said she felt more like a mother to the child.

The boy claimed the woman threatened him with a gun, saying she would kill either him or his family if he talked about the alleged assaults.

The boy said he and O'Malley-Tietz had sent one another revealing notes and text messages but that they had both shredded the notes, he no longer had one phone, and a second phone had been broken.

She said they did have sexual contact once, but that time the boy forced himself on her. She said she didn't call police because she felt sorry for the boy, but she did tell his mother that she no longer wanted him at her house.

Gherty said his client denied all the allegations when she testified during the trial.

He said she had described the attempted sexual assault to Officer Charles Golden when she was interviewed by him Oct. 19, 2009.

Gherty said O'Malley-Tietz was able to repel the attack with some difficulty because, even though the boy was only 12, he weighed 280 pounds and was 5 feet 9 inches tall.

"(Her) allegations were ignored, by law enforcement," said Gherty. "There was no follow-up interview of the juvenile, even though he admitted to lying to investigators in a prior interview."

During the trial, Gherty called only three defense witnesses: O'Malley-Tietz, her husband and her father.

"Each discredited the state's witnesses, said Gherty.

He was asked how the charges and the aftermath have affected his client.

"This has been horrific," said Gherty. He said the case was reported online (on the River Falls Journal and Pierce County Herald websites) before O'Malley-Tietz made her first court appearance.

"The online comments were not filtered and some called for a very severe, and illegal, punishment," said Gherty. "It was frustrating mounting a defense because the complainant is a juvenile and all records are sealed."

He added, "It creates a whole new problem in selecting an impartial jury when there are those (online) comments floating about."

The River Falls School District sent a letter to students and parents advising of O'Malley-Tietz's arrest.

"We hope they send a like advisory telling of her acquittal," said Gherty.

Pierce County Assistant District William Thorie, who prosecuted the case, did not return a Monday morning phone call asking for comment.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

(715) 426-1049