Man May Face Two Child Molestation Retrials
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star [Arizona]
January 3, 2007
Tucson native Philip Gregory Speers is expected to be retried this year on charges that he molested girls in the second-grade class he taught at a Yuma Catholic school in the 1999-2000 school year.
Speers, 34, was convicted on charges of child pornography and child molestation in separate trials in 2002 and 2003. But in decisions in 2004 and 2005, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed both convictions, giving the Speers family hope that his name would be cleared. Speers, who had been in state prison, was transferred to the Yuma County Jail, where he remains.
Yuma prosecutor David Haws said Tuesday that he expects Speers will once again face two separate trials, and that at least one of them, if not both, will occur this year. The state recently dropped a third case involving additional charges of child pornography it filed against Speers last year following a challenge from Speers, who hired a computer expert to discount the accusations, which he categorized as "vindictive prosecution."
"It doesn't undermine my belief in the other two cases," Haws said of the dismissal, saying he's confident Speers will be re-convicted.
Speers has always maintained his innocence, as have his family members in Tucson. He claims he was scapegoated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, and that the state's case against him was a witch hunt.
The diocese's insurance company in 2003 paid $1.8 million to the families of five girls who said Speers molested them to settle civil claims. Yuma is part of the Tucson diocese.
The case began on April 28, 2000, when Speers said he heard a little girl in his class at St. Francis Assisi Catholic School comment that he had asked her to take her clothes off. Speers got upset and contacted a school official.
Soon more girls came forward, and then a mother said she thought she'd seen something strange through a classroom window a few months before. Speers' Yuma apartment was searched and by May 3 that same year, he was arrested.
After a trial in 2002, Speers was convicted of possessing two pieces of child pornography that police say they found in temporary Internet files in his computer and he was sentenced to 34 years in prison.
A second, five-week trial on the molestation charges resulted in a 71-year prison term.
The Court of Appeals overturned both convictions, saying Speers should have been allowed to call expert witnesses to talk about the implantation of false memories in children, and that he should have been allowed to have friends, family members and co-workers give testimony about his character.
A 1990 graduate of Salpointe Catholic High School, Speers, who uses the first name Greg, grew up attending Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church on Tucson's East Side.
A University of Arizona graduate, he also holds a master's degree in theology from the University of Scranton and at one time was studying to be a priest.
Speers' mother, Charlotte, said Tuesday that her son is in good spirits and the family remains confident that he will be vindicated on all the charges.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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