The trial for a former Arrowhead Elementary School teacher accused of touching students inappropriately began Tuesday in Delaware County Common Pleas Court with jury selection and opening arguments by attorneys.
Matthew Rausenberg, 40, of Columbus, was in Judge David Gormley’s courtroom Tuesday to stand trial on 42 felony charges.
Rausenberg faces a total of 34 charges of gross sexual imposition, five charges of kidnapping, and three charges of pandering sexually oriented material.
First assistant Delaware County prosecutor Kyle Rohrer, giving the prosecution’s opening argument Tuesday afternoon, said that while Rausenberg was a teacher at Arrowhead, he betrayed the trust of parents and the community. On numerous occasions, he inappropriately touched several elementary-age female students over several years, holding them when they attempted to leave and also filming them, Rohrer said.
Rohrer said evidence would show that Rausenberg touched the female student’s private areas and, on some occasions, he forced them to touch his privates.
Rohrer said the nine girls in the case were younger than 13 years old when it happened and now range in age from 17 to 9.
Before the trial, Gormley granted permission for prosecutors to have the children’s parents testify first so they can be in the courtroom for their children’s testimony. Rohrer said all nine victims, identified as Jane Does 1 through 9, would be testifying in the next few days.
Rohrer said several law enforcement officers and medical professionals specializing in abuse would also be testifying.
Rohrer added that, when Rausenberg was interviewed by detectives from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, he admitted to touching students and filming them.
An 8½-minute video that allegedly depicts Rausenberg touching one of his students will be presented to the jury as evidence later in the case.
“It will be the longest 8½-minute video you will ever see,” Rohrer told the jury after warning them that the video will be “disturbing.”
Rausenberg’s attorney, Thomas Waldeck, also presented his opening argument to the jury.
“Keep an open mind,” Waldeck told the jury. “Don’t prejudge the case until the evidence is closed.”
Waldeck said that if the jury pays close attention to the evidence and testimony against Rausenberg, they will not find sufficient proof to convict him on the 42 counts he is facing.
“Promise to consider each charge individually and carefully,” Waldeck said. “You will conclude the proper verdict is not guilty.”
Before the opening arguments and before the jury returned from lunch, Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien asked Gormley to allow her to go on the record to say that the prosecution had offered Rausenberg a deal of 20 years to life in prison and he had rejected that deal. O’Brien said the deal was withdrawn after one of the victims in the case had to testify at a pre-trial hearing.
Court documents indicate the case is scheduled for four days.
Rausenberg has been in the Delaware County Jail since his arrest last March.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.