REDWOOD CITY -- In a stunning turn in the case accusing a Redwood City School District teacher of abusing young autistic students, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against her Thursday, citing a lack of evidence.
The classroom assistants whose allegations were the core of the case against Alexia Bogdis of Millbrae backpedaled significantly from their original claims, leading prosecutors to conclude the case was doomed, said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
In earlier statements, several aides claimed Bogdis had slapped, kicked and withheld food from two 5-year-old boys in her class at Roosevelt Elementary School in Redwood City in the 2011-12 school year, prosecutors said. The accusation led to a police investigation and nine counts of misdemeanor abuse against Bogdis.
Defense attorneys Christopher Schumb and Steve Clark said it was vindication for their client who had maintained her innocence from the start.
"The saddest thing is that she has been unable to teach all this time," said Schumb. Bogdis has been on leave from the district since the news broke in February 2012.
"She has never abused a child," he said.
According to the defense attorneys, the case began to unravel when they noticed inconsistencies in the aides' accusations. Schumb cited the example of the aides claiming to have complained of the alleged abuse to co-workers in the district, but follow up investigation showed they
There were also aspects of the story that simply didn't make sense, the attorneys said. For example, the aides claimed the abuse had gone on for months, yet they didn't report it.
As a result, the district fired at least four of the aides, who are fighting that decision in San Mateo County Superior Court. State law mandates educators report suspected abuse immediately to authorities.
"We believed there were a lot of gaps in the story," said Clark.
That led prosecutors to do their own interviews of the assistants in the summer, which yielded much less conclusive allegations. In one instance, an aide said Bogdis had kicked a child. But in a later statement, the aide said Bogdis stuck her leg out as a child ran at her, Wagstaffe said.
The reasons for the change in statements remained subject to speculation Thursday. Neither defense nor prosecution had a good answer.
However, Wagstaffe said he couldn't say whether Bogdis is innocent. He noted prosecutors have one set of statements that accused Bogdis of abuse and a second set that significantly backed away from those claims. He wasn't sure which to believe.
"I can't arrive on any conclusions on that," he said. "With the evidence, we could not get a conviction and we had an ethical duty to drop the charges."
Schumb and Clark were much clearer in their understanding of the dismissal. The nightmare of Bogdis' mug shot being flashed on the TV screen and the threat of imprisonment for a crime she didn't commit has ended, they said.
"She's innocent. She always has been," said Clark. "Now it's over."
As for Bogdis' future with the district, that remained unclear Thursday. Clark said the attorneys could not discuss personnel matters.
At least one known lawsuit has been filed against Bogdis by parents who claim their child was abused. Others may be pending. Todd Emanuel, attorney for one of the families, could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.