Reporting Kai Jackson
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A Baltimore Catholic school teacher serving four life sentences for raping young students could be freed from prison. Now, abuse victims gather to fight back against his possible release.
Kai Jackson explains how a mistake by the man’s lawyer could get him a plea deal.
It’s unclear if John Merzbacher will be released from prison. But even the possibility has dozens of his former students working to prevent it.
A number of former students of Mezbacher rallied in South Baltimore. They’re in pain, and angry that the former Baltimore Catholic school teacher who was convicted of child molestation could possibly be released from prison.
Jackson: “Why are you all out here today?”
Maureen Kane, Merzbacher’s former student: “To keep John Merzbacher in jail for life. And for our former classmates who can’t speak today.”
Merzbacher was indicted for raping and sodomizing more than a dozen students and convicted in one case in 1995.
“I didn’t do any of these things. And all I want is a fair trial,” he said.
They say it happened at the former Catholic Community Middle School between 1972 and 1979 in the 1500-block of East Fort Avenue.
“If they were to give him the electric chair, I would volunteer to throw the switch,” Diana Davis, one of Merzbacher’s former students, said.
Merzbacher has been in jail nearly 18 years.
In a strange twist, a federal judge in 2010 said Merzbacher must be given an opportunity to accept a plea deal that his lawyers purportedly didn’t tell him about.
“One, whether he was offered a plea of 10 years. Two, whether his lawyer failed to communicate that plea to him. And three, would he have accepted the plea if offered. If you get a yes on all three of those, he’s going to be released,” legal expert Byron Warnken said.
Many of those who say they were victims of Merzbacher believe there’s a strong possibility he’ll get out of jail. But they say they’ll fight it every step of the way.
“All this time, he has maintained his innocence. And now that he has a chance to get out, he’s willing to plead guilty and that’s wrong,” Joseph Wehberg, Merzbacher’s former student, said.
WJZ tried to contact Merzbacher’s attorney but our calls were not returned.
Merzbacher has a hearing scheduled for June 14.