By Danielle Silva
WOODLAND — The jury’s verdict for a “failure to leave school property when asked to leave” case hinges on whether or not the defendant had lawful business in entering the school.
Leonid Mikhaylevskiy was arrested on November 28, 2018. The trial’s opening statements claimed the defendant, with a hood and black eye, had gone to the elementary school to collect his child’s attendance records, was denied them due to not being on the emergency contact list, and was asked to leave. Mikhaylevskiy refused. The principal placed the school on lockdown, alerting officers to arrive on the scene. Several officers asked the defendant to leave but he continued to refuse, leading to his arrest. Closing arguments, while similar, changed the reason why Mikhaylevskiy came on school property.
In closing arguments, both the prosecution and defense stated the defendant went inside the school office to make a phone call and then left, shifting the focus away from requesting the student records.
The prosecution began their closing argument by stating the case focused on following the rules for school officials. The lockdown on Nov. 28, 2018, resulted in “an atmosphere of fear, panic, and disorder” as kindergarteners were crying and furniture was being placed against doors. The prosecution noted safety was important for these elementary school students.
The prosecution pointed out it was the defendant’s attire, as he was wearing a hoodie and had a black eye, and his behavior which alerted the principal. They stated the principal approached the defendant with an open mind but the defendant responded with aggression, by claiming the principal didn’t work at the school and the school was trying to take away his child. The prosecution stated the defendant’s actions continued to escalate the situation as he walked onto campus, and then the principal decided to place the school on lockdown.
Three elements were required in determining whether the defendant is to be guilty of this charge: entering the school without lawful business; the defendant’s actions disrupted school activities; and the defendant remained there after being told to leave.
The prosecution stated the defendant clearly remained when told to leave, as stated by Officer Matthew Gray and the two school officials who testified to asking the defendant to leave. The defendant’s actions, the prosecution argued, resulted in a school lockdown and placed everyone in a state of constant fear. The prosecution also argued Mikhaylevskiy had no right to be there as he didn’t ask for records, lingered, and caused a willful disruption of the school, and they requested the jury find him guilty of the charges.
The defense presented another perspective of the case, stating that lockdowns are scary and they would like kids to be safe but the jury needed to evaluate the evidence. All three elements listed above must be met for the defendant to be found guilty.
They agreed that Mikhaylevskiy refused to leave after being asked to, but they disagreed that his actions disrupted the school or that he had no lawful business to be at the school.
The defense argued that the defendant looked different from the other parents. Because the school had no security officers, the parents and school officials needed to be hyper-vigilant for the students. His appearance appeared scary, but the defendant did not willfully intend to cause a disturbance at the school, such as the shut-down. Willful disturbance, the defense stated, meant acting violently or aggressively. Disturbingly, on the other hand, means to act violently or act in a way to incite physical violence.
The defense claimed that the defendant didn’t act violently or act to incite violence, and did not stop anyone from calling the police. In fact, Officer Gray had stated the defendant was “passive” in his conversations.
Most notably, the defense claimed Mikhaylevskiy had lawful business in entering the school. The defense first pointed out there is no clear definition of the term “entered” as there was no clear boundary set for the school ground. Lawful business, however, means a reason for being there without the need of breaking any law or regulation.
The defendant was standing at the sidewalk and went into the office to use the phone, the defense stated. One of the witnesses, a school official, recognized him as one of the parents of attending children and tried to help. The school official appeared concerned for his well being but didn’t get a response from the defendant.
The defense argued Mikhaylevskiy’s “not sharing did not give him any less reason to be there.”
The defense outlined hypothetically that maybe the defendant was using his phone outside and it died so he went inside to use the office phone. However, there was no testimony on what the defendant did outside before coming into the school office – only that he was pacing back and forth, but there was no evidence he was violent or doing anything suspicious. His pacing could also be from his being upset and confused, or being someone with potential mental health issues.
The defendant never tried to hurt anyone and had a right to be there as a parent, the defense stated.
The defense pointed back to the fact that Mikhaylevskiy had legal custody of his child and therefore had a right to his education records and to talk with him. To get those records, the defendant would have to go to the school but could not access them because he wasn’t on the emergency list. The school officials knew him, allowed him to make the phone call and treated him with concern. The defense claimed that Mikhaylevskiy, as a parent who believed he had an emergency, should have seen the school as a reasonable place to get help.
The reasonable doubt outlined by the defense included that the defendant had a lawful purpose in being there, was the father of a student at the school, had no evidence proving he committed violent acts or physically threatened anyone, had no intent to disrupt school business and told an official his concern for his son. The defense requested the jury find the defendant not guilty of the charge.
During the prosecution’s rebuttal, they outlined that custody in the case was not disputed and reasonable doubt is applicable, but advised the jury not to ignore common sense.
“Concerned fathers don’t show up with a black eye and hood and refuse to leave,” the prosecution stated.
They argued that the defendant had no lawful business there as he was not requesting attendance records (as he had previously) and not there to pick up his son, rather they claimed he just continued his aggressive behavior. His behavior, the prosecution stated, resulted in the school’s lockdown. They also noted that Officer Gray affirmed that “they (the trial attorneys, jury, and witnesses) would not be were it not for the defendant’s actions.
“Calling that man sitting there innocent is an insult to the innocent people in the criminal justice system,” the prosecution concluded.
The jury was released for deliberation and have yet to return a verdict.