A misdemeanor criminal charge was dismissed Monday against a former Maywood high school music teacher who was seen on widely circulated cell phone video punching a 14-year-old student during a classroom argument nearly a year ago.
Deputy District Attorney Fred Engell asked for the case against Marston Riley, now 65, to be dismissed “in the interest of justice,” according to Paul Eakins of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The prosecutor cited the facts and circumstances involving the Nov. 2, 2018, argument that resulted in Riley’s early retirement, along with his age and his completion of a 10-week anger management course, according to Eakins. Riley also had no criminal record and has had no encounters with the law since then, Eakins said.
Riley — who lived in Anaheim at the time — was charged last Nov. 30 with a misdemeanor count of corporal injury to a child for hitting the teenage boy in front of a classroom filled with students at Maywood Academy High School.
Witnesses said shortly after the fight that Riley had asked the student to leave class because he wasn’t wearing a proper uniform. They said the student responded by yelling racial epithets at Riley, who is black, including the N-word.
Cell phone video taken by a student shows the teacher suddenly striking the boy in the face, then continuing to hit him as they grappled, even after a school security guard came into the classroom and tried to intervene.
The student was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Riley was arrested, but was released from jail the following day.
The cell phone video prompted a wave of support for Riley. Some backers — while not fully condoning Riley’s actions — suggested the student provoked the teacher through the use of vile epithets.
A GoFundMe page set up on Riley’s behalf raised more than $190,000.
“We all may have mixed feelings about what happened,” the GoFundMe page read. “But please do know that this is not the first time that Mr. Riley is attacked; physically or verbally. He is a great person and a great teacher.”
In a videotaped statement posted on the GoFundMe page after the misdemeanor count was filed against him, Riley said, “At this time, I am no longer an LAUSD employee because I had to retire early … I want to thank you for your words of encouragement, your letters, your support — financially, spiritually. I can’t thank you enough for your overwhelming help. I’m deeply moved.”
Speaking directly to his former students, Riley said he wanted them to know that he missed working with them and hoped that he would be able to come and talk to them “when this is all over.”
Community activist Najee Ali — who was among a coalition of civil rights leaders who called on District Attorney Jackie Lacey in January to dismiss the case against Riley — called the prosecution’s decision to drop the case “a major victory for teachers who oftentimes have to deal with combative, abusive and disruptive students in the classroom.”