SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- A Northern California jury that found three schoolgirls and their parents liable for defaming a Catholic school teacher they branded as a "perv," is about to decide how much one of the students should pay in punitive damages.
The Santa Clara County Superior Court jury found on Friday that the defendants damaged John Fischler's reputation by spreading false statements two years ago that he inappropriately touched the 10- and 11-year-old girls and peeked into a girls' bathroom at Holy Spirit School in Almaden Valley.
The former physical education teacher was awarded $362,000 in compensatory damages.
The jury also found that one of the girls, whom Fischler called the "ringleader" in spreading the rumors, acted with malice and is liable for punitive damages. The San Jose Mercury News reports the second phase of the trial to determine how much she'll have to pay is set to begin Monday.
Fischler, 49, was cleared by the school and police of sexual misconduct allegations after the rumors surfaced in 2011, but he declined to return to what he called a poisonous atmosphere at work and filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $1 million in damages. He accused the defendants of conspiring to get him fired from the private school and claimed the ordeal stained his reputation and ruined his teaching career.
"I just feel good my name is cleared," Fischler said after the verdict.