Words can’t describe how Hadley Christensen felt Friday, the day after a jury acquitted the former Juab County fifth-grade teacher of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl.
He felt relief, he said, and immeasurable joy.
"The last 19 months of my live have been constantly overshadowed by the threat of going to prison for a crime I did not commit," Christensen said Friday in a written statement. "As a person who has devoted his life to building up the lives of the young people I have had the privilege to work with, having my name sullied by those accusations have hurt me deep."
Christensen was charged in January 2013 with aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, accused of inviting a former student who he had taught the year before to his home on Dec. 22, 2013, and sexually assaulting her.
Christensen’s attorney, Dallas Young, said Friday that the former student was a friend of Christensen’s daughter, and was at the home for a sleepover that night.
"We’re just ecstatic that the jury saw it for what it is," Young said. "We didn’t believe it was a case that ever should have been prosecuted. The evidence was thin on its very best day."
Christensen testified in his own defense at trial, telling the jury that he was innocent, Young said.
"From day one, Hadley has maintained his innocence," Young said. "I’m not going to venture into why and how the accusations [from the girl] came about."
Prosecutors did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday.
Christensen, who taught at Red Cliffs Elementary School in Nephi, had worked for the district for 11 years. He had been on unpaid leave since December 2012, according to Juab School District Superintendant Rick Robins.
Robins said Friday that now that Christensen was acquitted of charges, they will re-evaluate his employment status, but would not detail the situation any further, citing privacy issues.
Christensen said his focus is not on his job at the moment, but on his family and his four children.
"Nineteen months of my childrens’ lives have been overshadowed by the threat of their father going to prison until well into their adult lives for an unspeakable crime I did not commit," he said. "Right now, my main priority is to spend time together with my children, who finally have their father back for good, something that has been missing for too much of their childhood."
Beyond his written statement Friday, Christensen asked for privacy for his family and the family of the girl who accused him of the crime.
"This has been a horrible situation for this whole community," he said. "As a proud resident of Nephi, my most sincere hope is that everyone involved in this can somehow find healing and peace."
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