A Delaware County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Thursday that evidence obtained from the classroom of a former Arrowhead Elementary School teacher accused of inappropriately touching students was obtained legally.
Judge David Gormley denied a motion to suppress evidence in the case of former Olentangy Local Schools teacher Matthew Rausenberg.
Gormley filed a judgment entry Thursday morning, denying motions filed by Rausenberg’s former attorney, asking that the judge suppress the evidence. The motions allege that cellphones taken from Rausenberg’s classroom were taken without cause and that police failed to read Rausenberg, 40, of Columbus, his Miranda rights before interrogating him for two hours in March.
The motions were argued by Rausenberg’s current attorney, Thomas Waldeck, and Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien at a hearing on Monday.
Detective Jason Campbell, a special investigator at the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, was present to testify about the execution of the search warrants and the interview conducted by authorities at Arrowhead Elementary on March 16.
Campbell said he, along with other investigators, went to Rausenberg’s classroom on March 16 at about 4 p.m. after all students had left and asked Rausenberg if it was OK if they took his electronics, after showing him the warrant. Campbell said Rausenberg consented to the search and provided investigators the necessary passwords to access the devices.
Campbell said he and another detective interviewed Rausenberg for about two hours before placing him under arrest. Campbell and prosecutors said that during the two-hour interview, Rausenberg was free to leave at any time and it was not an interrogation. Campbell said Rausenberg made several incriminatory statements during the interview and led investigators to believe he would harm himself.
At that point, he was placed under arrest, Campbell said.
“[Rausenberg] argues that Detective Campbell and the other law enforcement officers improperly subjected him to custodial interrogation without first advising him of his [Miranda rights],” Gormley said in his judgment entry on the motions to suppress.
Gormley said Rausenberg must have been in custody or “otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way” for a Miranda rights violation to have occurred. However, reviewing the evidence of the interview, Gormley said Rausenberg’s ability to leave the interview was never impeded by officers.
Gormley said the officers were wearing business attire, not uniforms, and never displayed weapons or handcuffs to Rausenberg. Furthermore, Gormley said officers provided him water, did not raise their voices and did not threaten him or employ any coercive interviewing techniques.
Gormley added that Rausenberg never voiced any hesitancy about speaking to officers and never asked for the interview to stop or to speak with a lawyer.
Gormley also ruled that, while the search warrant did not specifically mention cellphones, it does mention computers and other digital storage devices. Gormley said smart phones are essentially minicomputers and capable of storing large amounts of data.
Campbell said he specifically asked Rausenberg for the passwords for his phones and computer, and Rausenberg willingly gave them. Gormley said that constitutes consent.
Rausenberg is charged with a total of 34 charges of gross sexual imposition involving former students, five charges of kidnapping, and three charges of pandering sexually oriented material. He is scheduled for a jury trial on Jan. 19.
O’Brien, who has said she will personally prosecute the case, has said Rausenberg faces life in prison if he is convicted of all charges.
Rausenberg was still being held in the Delaware County Jail Thursday afternoon.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.