Prosecutors made use of video evidence Wednesday morning in the trial for a former Arrowhead Elementary School teacher accused of touching students inappropriately.
Matthew Rausenberg, 40, of Columbus, sat motionless Wednesday when Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien and first assistant prosecutor Kyle Rohrer played a video that, police say, was found on a cellphone in Rausenberg’s classroom after his March 16 arrest. The video depicts Rausenberg touching a second-grade girl in 2014 while she sat in his lap.
The girl and her mother were called to testify by prosecutors Wednesday in Delaware County Common Pleas Court.
The May 2014 video is roughly 8½ minutes long and begins with Rausenberg setting the camera up behind his desk, facing his chair. The courtroom fell silent as the video was played.
In the video, a female student, whom jurors learned was then a 7-year-old second-grader in Rausenberg’s class, approaches Rausenberg and hands him a Mother’s Day card, an assignment for class. Rausenberg lifts the girl onto his lap, lifts up her skirt and places his hands on the girl’s thighs, rubbing them. The video shows the girl trying to get off his lap but he keeps lifting her and putting her back on his lap.
The video then shows Rausenberg touching the girl’s thigh, buttocks and genitalia before standing up and making the girl rub the front of his pants with her hands.
The girl is laughing and giggling in parts of the video but attempts several times to move Rausenberg’s hands away with her hands and even tells him “stop.”
The mother of the girl in the video testified that her family, specifically her daughter, liked Rausenberg.
Rausenberg became visibly upset during the mother’s testimony.
The woman testified that her daughter was worried about having a male teacher for the first time but, after time, the student’s attitude changed.
“She loved him,” the mother said. “We loved him. She would be shy and nervous when talking about him.” The mother said the girl had a “crush” on Rausenberg.
After the mother’s testimony had concluded, the girl, now age 9, was brought in by prosecutors.
The girl told the jury that Rausenberg sometimes touched female students on the buttocks and female students would hold Rausenberg’s hands when they lined up and left the room.
O’Brien showed parts of the video to the girl and asked why she kept saying, “ouch.”
“Was it because what he was doing was hurting you?” O’Brien asked. The soft-spoken girl said “yes” in reply.
Rausenberg’s attorney, Thomas Waldeck, only asked the girl a couple of questions during cross-examination. Waldeck asked the girl if Rausenberg touched her every time she got in his lap and she said “no.” He asked her if she was laughing and giggling in the video, which she confirmed.
A Homeland Security agent from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Franklin County testified Wednesday that he found the cellphone in a bag under Rausenberg’s desk on March 16, 2015, and, after Rausenberg gave him the password, he found the video in the phone’s photo gallery.
The agent also testified that he and detective Jason Campbell from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office interviewed Rausenberg on March 16 before he was arrested and asked him about the video.
Prosecutors played a 20-minute segment of the interview for the jury.
“I don’t know why it happened,” Rausenberg told investigators in the interview. Rausenberg offered that, after some of his hair had started falling out, he had begun taking a testosterone booster that made him “unstable.”
At one point in the interview, Rausenberg said he was having urges that “didn’t make any sense.” After he set up the camera, “I was sitting with the girl and then all of a sudden my body just …” he said before trailing off.
Rausenberg told investigators that it only happened once and he deleted the video from his phone. Investigators said the video was not deleted and Rausenberg then admitted that there had been more than one video.
The Homeland Security agent said investigators were not able to recover any deleted videos from Rausenberg’s phone.
The trial is expected to continue for the next two days.
Rausenberg faces a total of 34 charges of gross sexual imposition, five charges of kidnapping, and three charges of pandering sexually oriented material. Prosecutors said there are nine alleged victims in the case — all former students of Rausenberg — and all of them would be testifying before the trial is over. Rohrer said the oldest girl is 17 and the youngest is 9.
Prosecutors said the kidnapping charges relate to when Rausenberg physically held students to keep them from leaving.
Rausenberg was in the Delaware County Jail Wednesday night.
Arrowhead Elementary is in the Olentangy Local School District.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.