Attorney says sub accused of fondling himself is mentally disabled. If so, how did he become a teacher?

An attorney for a man who allegedly fondled himself while substitute teaching in a Fairfield classroom should not have his statements made to police — including an admission of guilt — allowed in court, according to a motion filed last month with Fairfield Municipal Court.

A hearing on that motion to suppress is scheduled for 1 p.m. today in Fairfield Municipal Court. The motion says that Tracey Abraham, 41, of Cincinnati, is mentally disabled and that his right to not self-incriminate was violated.

Judge Joyce Campbell will consider the motion. Several Fairfield police officers were issued subpoenas last week to appear in court today, according to records.

“Mr. Abraham was unable to comprehend, process and perceive the charges being alleged,” attorney Louis Sirkin said in his filing. “He further was not only unable to understand the ‘Miranda rights’ but he was not capable to intelligently waive the rights.”

State officials involved with processing applicants for substitute teaching licenses said they have no way of knowing whether job candidates suffer from mental illness or disabilities unless they spent time in a mental facility or were declared incompetent.

While candidates for substitute teaching jobs in Ohio are subjected to criminal and education background checks by the FBI, Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Department of Education, some of those do not ask applicants about or review their mental health history, citing legal restrictions.

David O’Neil, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s office – which includes the BCI – said part of that office’s background checks beyond previous criminal records includes reviewing a national database.“The background check includes a check against a national mental incompetency database. To be placed on that database someone would have to be involuntarily checked in to a mental health facility or declared mentally incompetent by the court,” said O’Neil.

Todd Lindgren, spokesman for the Cincinnati office of the FBI, said his federal agency is limited to making only criminal background checks on substitute teacher applicants.

And Tom Isaacs, superintendent of the Warren County Educational Services Center, which handles substitute hiring and scheduling for both Warren and Butler counties, said his organization cannot inquire about the mental health of applicants.

The Journal-News previously reviewed Abraham’s personnel file, which is maintained at the Warren County Education Services Center, and it shows he passed his Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks. The Ohio Department of Education also licensed him. Substitute teachers are also required to have a four-year degree.

When asked if they knew if Abraham had a mental disability, Isaacs said, “How would we know that?”

Abraham was one of about 1,100 substitute teachers used in Butler and Warren county schools, and Isaacs said they do receive regular complaints about a sub. They are required to talk to the ESC’s human resources department.

“Typically the complaints are they were tardy, or they didn’t show up for work,” he said. “(Abraham) never had a single complaint about him.”

Isaacs said staff at each school building is responsible for finding their substitute teachers, and Abraham was a sub at dozens of schools in both counties.

“That indicates to me that a lot of people didn’t know (he allegedly had a mental disability),” Isaacs said.

MORE: Recent arrest highlights scrutiny placed on substitute teachers

On Jan. 8, Abraham was arrested and charged with public indecency, a first-degree misdemeanor, after a Fairfield school resource officer at Creekside Middle School on Nilles Road received several complaints that he allegedly was fondling himself with students in the classroom. Students observed the act, according to a video recorded by a 13-year-old female student who posted social media. No students were physically involved in the alleged act.

Credit: Fairfield police

Credit: Fairfield police

Once he was taken into custody, Abraham was “interrogated” by Fairfield police officers for nearly two hours and was “rapidly read his Miranda rights and was asked to sign a constitutional rights waiver,” according to Sirkin’s motion. “Mr. Abraham complied while expressing doubt as to why he had been taken into custody and why he was being interrogated.”

Abraham admitted to police he was looking at explicit images on his cellphone while fondling himself outside his pants and admitted he “fondled himself four or five times over the course of an hour,” according to the police report. He was never exposed, police said.

Sirkin said he plans to present evidence today that will show Abraham has been mentally disabled since birth, and recently scored a 70 on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.

“He further scored extremely low in ‘perceptual reasoning’ and ‘processing speed,’” he said.

Sirkin’s motion also indicates Abraham’s treating psychologist will testify on his mental capabilities.

“He has an extreme desire to please and may respond to please the interviewer. Moreover, he is extremely sensitive to what he perceives as criticism resulting in an inability to understand what is being asked,” according to the motion presumably from Abraham’s treating psychologist.

MORE: Fairfield substitute teacher admitted to ‘fondling himself’ in middle school classroom

Abraham’s mental disabilities were never revealed during the police investigation, and they were never revealed during his several years as a substitute teacher in Butler and Warren counties.

Fairfield Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Oelrich plans to oppose Sirkin’s motion.

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