Falsely Accused, Sean Lanigan Attempts to Reclaim His Life

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Sean Lanigan Falsely Accused: Community Outrage

When Lanigan was in jail, police released his booking photograph, age and home address.

"It is usual protocol, but was it necessary?" asked Bill Cummings, a close friend of Lanigan's who has known him for 14 years.

That's the question that many are asking now that Lanigan's name and image has been tarnished.

"I'm doing whatever I can to help him with this intolerable situation. It's disgraceful how he's been treated by Fairfax county schools," Cummings said.

The first few weeks Lanigan was out of jail the community showered him and his family with support -- they brought over dinners, gift cards and even volunteered to watch the kids so he and his wife could have a date night.

Lanigan was well-known in his housing development, a community called Virginia Run.

For several years he dressed up as Santa Claus during the holidays, and showed up at the community center on a flatbed driven by draft horses.

Neighbors would stuff pillows in his Santa suit to camouflage his fit physique. He even played the roles of Great Pumpkin and Easter bunny.

When people heard about the charges against him, they began writing and calling Fairfax, Va. state delegate Tim Hugo.

"I had mothers calling me who said, 'We trust this guy,'" Hugo said, who was amazed at the community's passionate response. "There's not a person who has a bad thing to say."

So many people contacted Hugo that he, in turn, contacted the Fairfax County School District, but he says they told him it was an internal matter and they would not discuss it.

"I think what they've done to Sean Lanigan is unconscionable," said Hugo, who worries other male teachers in the school district feel wary, even paranoid. "The guy's been railroaded."

The school district is currently embroiled in another controversy regarding the closure of Clifton Elementary School.

A Clifton resident recently accused the school board of using email to secretly ask one another whether or not they would vote to close the elementary school, allegedly violating the state's Open Meetings laws.

"Fairfax can never admit they're wrong," Hugo said.

Paul Regnier, the Fairfax schools spokesman, did not respond to an interview request made Monday by ABCNews.com.

The school did, however, issue a statement to The Washington Post on Monday evening. They said the decision to transfer Lanigan to another school was standard practice in "any case involving a serious disciplinary proceeding," and he could "seek reimbursement of his legal fees from his teachers association."

Regnier didn't give any specifics about that reimbursement other than to say the teachers association insures members for up to $35,000.

Lanigan Case Goes to Grand Jury

During the probable cause hearing, the accuser actually admitted that Lanigan never actually laid on top of her. But the case still went to a grand jury.

"Nobody wanted to be attached to dismissing a charge against someone who was alleged to have molested a child," said Cummings.

The accuser reportedly said during the trial that she had always hated Lanigan, according to The Post. She also admitted to a Facebook posting where she called it all "a joke."

Although Lanigan's trial lasted only four days in May and the jury only deliberated for about 10 minutes before deciding he wasn't guilty, Lanigan wasn't allowed to return to Centre Ridge.

Instead, he was transferred to South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., where he was paid a fulltime salary to work five days out of 10.

The decision to go to South Lakes wasn't his, he said, it was a "take it or leave it" situation.

As the months passed, he put up a strong front for himself, and his family.

"I don't talk very often -- I don't chat, I have thick skin," he explained. "There's a lot of people who don't realize how emotionally torn up I've been."

After the trial, "Everyone I talked to said 'I'm so happy your life is back to normal.' My life is not normal."

One of the first Google search results under Lanigan's name pulls up the website badbadteacher.com.

Lanigan says kids still run up to him, saying they miss him.

"Sometimes it brings me to tears," he said.

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