Was former Ralston Public Schools elementary teacher Nicholas Richter a toucher?
Or was he simply a misunderstood teacher?
Jurors will decide after a trial this week.
Richter, who taught math and reading courses, is being retried after jurors deadlocked during his first trial in August. Jurors had reached a stalemate on whether Richter was guilty of the sexual assault by touching of four honors students. A hung jury and mistrial were declared.
His retrial is expected to last most of this week -- and will involve only three alleged victims, instead of four. Prosecutors dropped charges involving a fourth victim. That victim didn't want to testify again -- and he wasn't nearly as definitive as the other boys during the first trial.
The state's first witness, a 12-year-old boy, took the stand Tuesday and described being touched by Richter more than 15 times when he was 10 years old and in Richter's fourth grade honors class. The boy said he had enjoyed Richter's classes.
"He was a good teacher until he started touching me," the boy said.
The boy said Richter would lean against a table and touch him by stroking his penis over the clothes.
"It happened too many times (to count)," the boy said.
Prosecutor Beth Beninato told jurors it had happened before in Richter's career. A now middle-aged man will come into court and testify that Richter had touched his buttocks in front of the class when the man was in a Council Bluffs elementary school in the mid-1980s.
Because of the statute of limitations, Richter doesn't face charges related to that man's allegations. However, prosecutors are calling him to try to to prove a pattern of behavior by Richter.
Richter's attorney, Joseph Howard, urged jurors to closely scrutinize the boys' accounts.
Howard suggested that the statements were the product of suggestion -- by other students, by parents and by media reports about Richter's arrest.
And, Howard said, the boys have been inconsistent in their accounts.
"These stories have been growing and growing and growing," Howard said. "The stories don't make sense. They're unreasonable. And they're based on unreliable memories."