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August 22, 2014

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Efforts to drop kidnapping case against kindergarten teacher unsuccessful

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L.E. Baskow

Melvyn Perry Sprowson Jr., a former elementary school teacher accused of giving a 15 year old runaway an STD, appears in Clark County District Court for a habeus corpus hearing on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. L.E. Baskow

Melvyn Sprowson Appears for Habeus Corpus

District judge Stefany Miley presides over the Melvyn Perry Sprowson Jr., habeus corpus hearing at Clark County District Court on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.  L.E. Baskow Launch slideshow »

Despite his attorneys' efforts today, former Las Vegas kindergarten teacher Melvyn Sprowson will remain behind bars in the kidnapping case of a runaway teen whom he reportedly harbored for nine weeks.

Sprowson, 45, is being held at the Clark County Detention Center on $150,000 bail for one count each of kidnapping and child abuse and four counts of producing child pornography.

Presenting Clark County District Judge Stefany Miley a petition for habeas corpus — which seeks a prisoner's release from unlawful detention — attorneys John Momot and Yi Lin Zheng argued against the legitimacy of his charges, noting that the girl, 16, willingly went to Sprowson and had a consensual romantic relationship with him. She also voluntarily texted him a series of partially nude photographs, Zheng said.

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. A person younger than 18 cannot legally participate in pornography.

Sprowson's case should be dropped due to the contradictory nature of those laws, Momot and Zheng told Miley.

"What I hear from them on almost every count in this information is that they don't like the statute," prosecutor Jacqueline Bluth said. "That doesn't matter, quite frankly."

Momot also argued that the child abuse charge was unfounded. Citing insufficient evidence, Momot questioned Bluth's claim that the teen's relationship with Sprowson led to mental trauma that required intensive treatment.

Miley denied the habeas corpus petition on all charges and set a trial for June 2.

The girl's mother, who sat through today's hearing and declined to speak with a Sun reporter, took the witness stand during Sprowson's five-hour preliminary hearing in December.

There, she recalled the nine anguish-filled weeks she spent looking for her daughter.

"I thought my daughter was picked up by a human trafficker," the mother said in December. "I was really freaking out."

The Sun has withheld their names to shield the underage girl, who is now undergoing counseling.

At the December hearing, the girl maintained she never wanted to get Sprowson in trouble.

The high school sophomore ran away from home last August to live with Sprowson while he taught kindergarteners at Wengert Elementary School. She didn't return to school because she didn't want to be caught staying at his apartment.

Prosecutors allege Sprowson took the teen without her mother's consent, harbored her for two months, supplied her with alcohol and gave her a sexually transmitted disease before Clark County School District Police found the missing and truant girl at his apartment in November.

Sprowson, who began working for Clark County in August, resigned as a fifth-grade teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District in January. In California, Sprowson faced allegations of sexual abuse involving female students in fourth and fifth grade, but an investigation cleared him of wrongdoing and he kept his teaching license.

Sprowson is no longer employed by the Clark County School District.

If his case goes to trial and he is convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

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