Former Point principal’s attorney pleased with judge’s ruling finding Walters innocent

By Kari Williams, Staff Reporter

The attorney for former Point Elementary School Principal Jim Walters is pleased with a judge’s ruling finding Walters innocent of lewd and indecent conduct charges.

Walters’ attorney, Neil Bruntrager, told the Call he and Walters will have to “assess what (their) legal remedies are.”

In finding Walters innocent last week, St. Louis Municipal Judge Joseph Murphy cited video evidence and lack of “clear, convincing and unrefuted testimony.”

Walters was issued a summons March 16 at Concourse and McKinley in Forest Park, which states, “I observed subject Walters grab his genitales (sic) while talking to a person in his vehicle who later confessed to what was happening.”

Former Park Ranger Tim McGarity, who is now a utility officer, was the only witness, though Walters was present at the Sept. 25 trial.

McGarity testified that Walters exposed himself and simulated a masturbation act. Murphy states in his decision that “had that been the case, the question defense counsel asked is why the ranger did not use such language in the summons, which was the first document the ranger completed.”

McGarity’s testimony in court also “dramatically differed from the language of the summons,” according to Murphy.

“Even the park ranger admitted the summons ‘could have been worded better,'” Murphy states. “… The summons fails on its face to meet the elements of the ordinance. If this court took the words of the summons as presented, the courts for the city of St. Louis would be inundated with cases brought against athletes for such behavior.”

McGarity testified he saw Walters talk to a man in a vehicle near Concourse and McKinley, which is where McGarity alleged the incident occurred. The former ranger also testified the man in the vehicle and Walters had additional contact in an upper Muny lot, which has video cameras.

Bruntrager introduced video evidence from the time McGarity testified the second point of contact occurred.

Murphy states in his decision the video footage “clearly, convincingly and totally refutes the park ranger’s testimony, as well as his report narrative and deposition.”

Bruntrager, according to Murphy, “even widened the time frame of the incident to give the ranger one hour and 46 minutes of leeway for the rendezvous at (the upper Muny lot) to appear on camera.”

Murphy states in his decision that:

• Walters never appears in the video evidence.

• McGarity “never appears pursuing them as he alleged.”

• The “video clearly shows the camera was working properly and was recording every movement by persons and motor vehicles.”

The cameras on the lot are motion activated, which McGarity testified do not pick up movement if people are out of range. He also testified he was aware of the cameras, but unaware that they were recording.

Murphy states the court has heard “many cases based solely on the testimony of a single city witness,” which is usually a St. Louis city police officer.

“The city attorney invariably, if not always, asks the police officer of his or her training and experience,” Murphy wrote in his decision. “This is presumably done to bolster the witness’ credibility.”

In cases such as Walters’, Murphy states the city “presents only one witness” and that “the city has ruled in the favor of such cases many times based on the officer’s testimony, experience and training.”

In this particular case, Murphy states, “While park rangers are a valuable asset to the city, they do not have, and are not required to have, the length and breadth of training that St. Louis City police officers must have.”

Mehlville officials were notified of the allegations against Walters March 19. A letter from Superintendent Eric Knost was sent to parents March 20 stating, “… The principal will not return to Point Elementary unless and until the district determines that to do so is appropriate and safe for all students.”

On June 14, the Board of Education voted 7-0 terminate Walters’ contract and his employment with the district.

Walters began his tenure as Point Elementary principal July 1, 2007.

Knost told the Call last week that because the ruling is “related to a personnel issue,” it is the district’s policy not to comment on personnel matters.

“But the district still stands behind the decisions that we’ve made,” Knost said.

Bruntrager said in his opinion, the district breached Walters’ contract by terminating him.

“We’re certainly going to explore that,” Bruntrager said.

But Knost told the Call district officials do

“not believe any contract was breached.”