Trial by Hearing : Ex-Defendant in Molestation Case Wants to Teach Again

Times Staff Writer

The room is smaller, the atmosphere less formal and the judge doesn't wear a robe. But otherwise, the teacher credentialing hearing for Peggy Ann Buckey, a former defendant in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case, is much like the preliminary hearing she went through two years ago.

The "prosecutor" in the hearing, Deputy Atty. Gen. Stephanie Wald, presents the now-familiar allegations from former Virginia McMartin Pre-School pupils--sexual abuse, naked "games" and the slaughter of animals.

Under questioning by defense attorney John Wagner, the youngsters elaborate on their stories of satanic rituals in churches, airplane trips to a farm, secret rooms and tunnels under the preschool and trips to cemeteries and mortuaries.

But the proceeding, however similar the testimony, is only quasi-judicial. It is being conducted to determine if Buckey, who lost her credentials when she was charged in the McMartin case, will teach again in California.

Last of Testimony

On Monday, the last of four former McMartin pupils, a 13-year-old boy, completed his testimony before Administrative Law Judge Ronald M. Gruen at the State Office Building in downtown Los Angeles, only a block from the Criminal Courts Building where Buckey's mother and brother are on trial on charges of child molestation.

The hearing, which began June 6, was recessed until Oct. 3, when Wagner may call as many as 100 witnesses to try to disprove the allegations against Buckey.

Buckey, 32, lost her credentials and teaching job in the Anaheim Union High School District shortly after she was charged in March, 1984, with 14 counts of child sexual molestation. The counts against her were reduced to eight at the end of the 18-month preliminary hearing.

Asked for Reinstatement

After charges against Buckey and four other McMartin defendants were dropped in January, 1986, she asked for reinstatement of her credentials and her job as a teacher of handicapped youngsters in the Anaheim district.

However, Anaheim school officials said her "moral fitness" to teach remained in doubt because of the McMartin allegations.

They contended that in the criminal proceeding, the standard was guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

But in civil proceedings relating to a teacher's moral qualifications, a lesser standard of "clear and convincing" evidence is used.

Wald also contends that the burden of proof is on Buckey, who must disprove the allegations against her because the state considers her a new applicant for credentials. Buckey's credentials expired in 1985 during the McMartin preliminary hearing.

The Anaheim district hired a private attorney, Kyle D. Brown of Hermosa Beach, to interview former McMartin students and present their allegations to the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing. That led to a hearing in Sacramento in late 1986 and the current session in Los Angeles.

Wald, who represents the commission at the hearing, said the child witnesses have stood up very well against lengthy cross-examination by Wagner.

"I feel very good about the case so far," she said. "There is no doubt in my mind that the allegations show that Miss Buckey should not be teaching children."

Wagner said he believes the judge will be convinced of his client's innocence "by civil or any other standards of common sense and fairness." He said that two of the four witnesses were not enrolled at the preschool when Buckey worked there.

"It would be easier to give up and run away," said Buckey, who has been fighting for her credentials for more than two years.

"But it's not fair to punish me, now even more with my career, when I didn't do anything wrong."

The trial of Buckey's brother, Raymond Buckey, 30, and her mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 61, is in its second year in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The Buckeys face a total of 99 charges of molestation and one count of conspiracy.

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