WPTV typically does not identify juveniles who are not charged with crimes. However, because of the details outlined in the defendant’s motion to dismiss, which is a public record, WPTV is reporting the details set forth in the defendant’s court filing, which identifies the juvenile who was not charged with a crime.
An assistant principal at Palm Beach Central High School said he did not report the suspected sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl because, in part, he did not believe the suspect, his own son, had committed a crime, according to a new court filing.
An attorney for Daniel Snider, 49, on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss the failure to report sexual abuse charge against his client.
The motion obtained by WPTV presents Snider's defense to the felony charge.
Snider, along with Palm Beach Central principal Darren Edgecomb, 58, assistant principal Nereyda Cayado De Garcia, 57, chorus teacher Scott Houchins, 53, and school behavioral therapist Priscilla Carter, 55, were arrested on July 24.
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According to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office incident report, a 15-year-old girl claimed Snider's son "repeatedly inappropriately touched" her at Lake Worth Beach on April 2, 2021.
Under the state law for which Snider is facing a charge, "any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is the victim of sexual abuse or juvenile sexual abuse shall report such knowledge or suspicion to the central abuse hotline."
However, Snider's motion to dismiss takes issue with the phrase "reasonable cause to suspect," as Snider "maintains to this day that his son is innocent of any alleged sexual abuse or juvenile sexual abuse," according to the motion.
"Daniel Snider did not know or suspect his son had committed an act of sexual abuse or juvenile sexual abuse," the motion said, and therefore was not obligated to report the allegations under state law, his attorney argued.
In addition, Snider has text messages between his son and the girl to back up his beliefs, the motion said.
The motion added that "Daniel Snider did not prevent another person from reporting such information to the central abuse hotline of the Department of Children and Families."
Snider's motion also references a Palm Beach County School District policy titled "Teen Dating Violence or Abuse," which states that a "'relative of the victim or accused/perpetrator' may not be involved in the investigation of such complaints."
A Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office incident report said that, months after the alleged April 2 sexual assault, the 15-year-old girl told a friend in her fifth-period class on Aug. 16, 2021, that Snider's son had sexually assaulted her and "she, 'should have said, no.'"
The girl's friend then went to Snider and told him, "Your son sexually assaulted one of my friends," the incident report said.
"Mr. Snider told her to go to student services, and he gave her a student incident statement to complete," according to the report. The report went on to say that once the student was done writing her statement, Snider gave it to Edgecomb.
"Due to Principal Edgecomb instructing Daniel Snider that he could not be involved, Daniel Snider immediately folded the statement, without ever reading it, and delivered it to Principal Edgecomb," according to Snider's motion to dismiss.
Snider's attorney argued that if the assistant principal had "made a report to the central abuse hotline under these circumstances, where he had every reason to believe the report was false," he risked violating Florida law by making a false report.
Finally, the motion said Snider has a right to privacy and a right to protect his son. It said Snider "has a right to not be compelled to betray his son by being forced to utter to the government very harmful accusations about his son that he does not even believe."
The sheriff's office incident report indicates that Snider did not report the allegations to law enforcement or the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The report said Edgecomb spoke to the student about the claims, asking her to clarify "sexually harassed" versus "sexually assaulted," and "after that, she never heard anything else from Assistant Principal Snider or Principal Edgecomb."
Two weeks later, on Aug. 31, 2021, two Palm Beach County detectives went to Palm Beach Central High School to speak with Snider's son.
Snider came and greeted the investigators but said his son would not speak to them "as he had retained the services of an attorney."
"Detective Bragg asked Mr. Snider if he was aware that he is a mandated reporter. Mr. Snider indicated that he was aware, but since the incident was initiated with him when a student brought the information to him that involved his own son, he claims he turned all information over to Principal Edgecomb to handle, and did not report the incident to law enforcement or the Department of Children and Families," the report stated.
Snider's son was never arrested or charged in the case because, ultimately, the girl's father did not want to pursue criminal charges against the boy "as he does not want this matter dragged out in the legal system which could potentially inhibit the progress [his daughter] is making," the 2021 incident report said.
The lewd and lascivious molestation case was officially closed on Oct. 18, 2021, even though evidence "corroborated the allegations" against the 15-year-old boy, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said.
Snider's attorney told WPTV on Thursday he would not comment on the motion to dismiss or the criminal case. A date has not been set to hear the motion in court.
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As for the four other school staffers arrested, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office investigation revealed that, months before the girl's parents learned about the alleged sexual assault, a friend of the teen wrote a letter and gave it to Houchins, a chorus teacher, on June 16, 2021, saying the girl was sexually assaulted and suicidal, and that "many anxiety and panic attacks were caused by this leading to self-harm."
According to the 2021 sheriff's office incident report, the letter stated the girl "had been 'sexually abused' but did not indicate by whom or how."
The girl's friend asked Houchins "to ensure it was given to the appropriate person."
Houchins said "he gave the letter to someone in the guidance office, but couldn't remember who."
That same day, Carter, a school behavioral therapist at Palm Beach Central High School, called the 15-year-old girl to the office, where she was evaluated. It was "determined that she was not a risk to herself and did not need to be Baker Acted," the report said.
Carter did not ask the girl about the alleged sexual assault, only about her suicidal thoughts.
"She told the counselor she was fine, even though she was, 'cutting,'" the incident report stated.
Carter’s arrest report stated she contacted the girl’s mother about what happened but did not mention the sexual assault referenced in the letter.
The girl's parents told a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office investigator they were made aware of the incident on Aug. 17, 2021 — more than four months after the alleged sexual assault and two months after Houchins first received the letter from the teen's friend — and met with Edgecomb two days later.
At that Aug. 19 meeting between the girl's parents, Edgecomb, and assistant principal Cayado De Garcia, Edgecomb said "he conducted his own investigation into the assault" and "he did not contact law enforcement, nor DCF, regarding the assault because he felt that a sexual assault didn't occur, based on his investigation," according to the report.
When the girl's parents asked why the assault wasn't reported to law enforcement, Cayado De Garcia said they wanted to have the girl's parents report the assault, "and that since there was no indication that [the 15-year-old girl] wasn't safe, then there was no need for them to report it."
Edgecomb added the boy's "interpretation of the events was different (and therefore the principal didn't feel the need to report it)."
The incident report said the girl's father believed the school personnel were "negligent" in the case, and "had school personnel reported, as required, his daughter could have been spared a lot of anguish and trauma."
The lewd and lascivious molestation case was closed on Oct. 18, 2021.
The girl's father later contacted a PBSO detective and said he wanted to generate a new criminal case because he felt the staff at Palm Beach Central High School was "criminally negligent in their Mandatory Reporting of the incident."
WPTV has learned that four of the five employees arrested have been employed with the School District of Palm Beach County for more than 20 years. All have been reassigned to positions away from students.
Reggie Myers, the retired former principal at Park Vista Community High School, is now serving as the interim principal of Palm Beach Central High School.