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  Teacher's Molestation Convictions Reversed

KVOA Channel 4 [Tucson]
March 1, 2005

The state Court of Appeals has reversed the child-molestation convictions of a former Catholic-school teacher.

In a memorandum issued late last week, the appellate panel returned Phillip Gregory Speers' molestation case to Yuma County Superior Court, where he was prosecuted.

In September, the Court of Appeals overturned his convictions for possessing child pornography in connection with the same case, which involved accusations that the 32-year-old Speers molested girls in a second-grade class he taught at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Yuma in the 1999-2000 school year.

Thursday's memorandum said Speers should have been allowed to call an expert witness to talk about the implantation of false memories in children and he should have been allowed to have friends, family members and co-workers give testimony about his character.

Speers remains in state prison and will stay there until the appeal is resolved, said Chief Yuma County Deputy Attorney Roger Nelson.

Nelson prosecuted Speers in two trials _ one in 2002 on the child-pornography-possession charges and the second in 2003 for accusations of child molestation.

Nelson said the child-pornography case now is under review by the Arizona Supreme Court and it could be consolidated with the more recent decision on the child molestation convictions.

"We're going to retry the case. I'm 100 percent certain," Nelson said Monday.

Speers was sentenced to 105 years behind bars _ 34 years on two child-pornography-possession convictions and the remaining 71 years for convictions on charges that Speers molested girls in his class _ one conviction of sexual conduct with a minor and four counts of sexual molestation.

Families of the five girls who said Speers molested them received a $1.8 million payment in 2003 to settle civil claims they had filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which includes Yuma. The diocese's insurance paid the settlement.

Speers and his family have maintained his innocence since the accusations surfaced.

 
 

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