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October 25, 2014

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Calif. allegations lead to increased bail for teacher accused of kidnapping teen

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L.E. Baskow

Melvyn Sprowson looks to his defense attorney John Momot as he presents an argument for him during a preliminary hearing on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013.

Updated Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 | 12:27 p.m.

Melvyn Sprowson In Court

Defense attorney John Momot presents an argument for Melvyn Sprowson looking down during a preliminary hearing on Monday,  Dec. 9, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Bail for the former kindergarten teacher accused of harboring a runaway teen – lowered last week on appeal – was quintupled this morning when the prosecutor told the court about prior accusations from California involving schoolchildren and the defendant.

Melvyn Perry Sprowson Jr., 45, is charged with first-degree kidnapping, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and giving a false statement to the police. Prosecutors allege Sprowson took the teen without her parents' consent, harbored the girl for two months, plied her with alcohol and gave her a sexually transmitted disease before police discovered the girl at his apartment.

This morning, Jacqueline Bluth, a chief deputy district attorney, told Las Vegas Township Judge William Kephart about Sprowson's history. Bluth said she found out about 15 minutes before walking into the courtroom that Sprowson had been accused of making advances on 10-year-olds in his fourth-grade class in California. He taught the same students the next year, in fifth grade.

Sprowson, who was began work for the Clark County School District in August, resigned Jan. 31, 2012, from his position as a fifth-grade teacher at Magnolia Elementary School after nearly 10 years as an elementary school teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

News of the California allegations was enough to convince Kephart to raise Sprowson's bail from $130,000 to $650,000.

John Momot, Sprowson's attorney, said the Los Angeles County case had been thrown out after witnesses had given inconsistent statements, some of them taking back what they’d initially said.

“When the state argues, I think it is supposed to argue all the facts,” Momot said, taking issue with the California case.

Kephart said when he first saw the case he didn’t understand why Sprowson would leave a job in California, where he was teaching “actual grade classes."

“Now it’s been kind of confirmed,” Kephart said.

Kephart has favored setting bail high for Sprowson from the beginning. In Sprowson's first appearance in court, prosecutors asked that bail be set at $56,000, but Kephart set it at $530,000.

“I know that there is a presumption of innocence here; I understand that. But the problem I’m having with this is the nature of his employment, his dishonesty with the police when they first talked to him,” Kephart said when he set bail for Sprowson at that first appearance. “What he is doing in our community, what his job is in our community, he has somewhat of a higher responsibility to our children, I think, than somebody who is not educated.”

Last week, District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez lowered Sprowson's bail on appeal.

A Metro Police arrest report outlined the following about the case:

On Oct. 31, Sprowson was visited on the job at Wengert Elementary School by Metro and Clark County School District police officers, who asked about the teen. He told investigators he didn’t know the girl’s whereabouts but acknowledged they had exchanged messages and he’d once wired money to her. A day later, police went to Sprowson’s apartment and the girl answered the door. Sprowson was arrested the same day.

The couple met when Sprowson posted an ad for a roommate on Craigslist and the girl responded. The pair began messaging, and when she told him she couldn’t take being home anymore Aug. 29, Sprowson picked up the girl, according to the police report.

The teacher and the teen fell in love, the girl told the police.

The couple spent their time together playing board games and sharing take-out meals, according to court documents filed by the prosecution. The girl wasn’t allowed to go out until after dark, and Sprowson let her drink alcohol.

Additionally, prosecutors said, Sprowson gave the girl an unspecified sexually transmitted disease.

Although a 16-year-old can consent to sex, according to Nevada law, it is illegal to keep a minor from his or her parents, even if the minor consents.

Sprowson told the girl that if they were discovered, he had $30,000 and would find her so they could be together, according to the documents.

Momot has said the girl told detectives her experience with Sprowson inspired her to want to become an elementary school teacher. Momot has said the case was being blown out of proportion and that the real issue wasn’t his client but that the teen, who Momot said had tried to escape from her family previously, didn’t want to go home.

This is a mother-daughter situation,” Momot said at a previous hearing. “She doesn’t want to go home. She doesn’t want to be a victim.”

Wednesday, the Clark County School District said Sprowson was no longer employed by the district.

A preliminary hearing for Sprowson has been continued to Dec. 30. He remains jailed in the Clark County Detention Center.

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