Moreno Valley USD: $135M verdict reached in case against teacher’s sexual abuse of 2 students

A Riverside County jury awarded a combined $135 million to two former Moreno Valley Unified School District male students who were allegedly sexually abused by their teacher, and subsequently failed by the school district entrusted to protect them.

Former students Brady Blair and Justin McGregor attended Vista Heights Middle School and were assigned to Thomas Lee West's sixth-grade class during the 1996-1997 school year. It was during this time that West allegedly began molesting the two boys.

The sexual abuse allegedly continued through Blair and McGregor's sophomore year of high school, at which time they said that West maintained his control over them through "coercion, threats and computer tracking," to keep them from reporting the abuse.

"While there is no amount of money that can replace what was stolen from these two men, we are grateful to the jury for holding the Moreno Valley Unified School District accountable for their unconscionable acts that robbed these men of their childhood," said the former students' attorney Spencer Lucas.

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Following the boys' high school graduation in 2003, Blair reported the abuse to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. West was arrested and charged with committing "lewd or lascivious acts" with a minor child under 14 years of age

At the criminal trial, West was found guilty. He is currently serving 52 years to life in the Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County.

As a result of the abuse, Blair and McGregor said they have suffered "severe, life-long mental and emotional distress."

West was employed with the school district for 20 years, despite allegedly having numerous child molestation complaints made against him dating back to the 1980s.

Throughout the trial, the Moreno Valley Unified School District allegedly denied responsibility for West's conduct.

"It took 27 years and tremendous courage from both plaintiffs to testify in the criminal and civil trials," said Brian Panish, an attorney for Blair and McGregor. "But today Brady and Justin received the justice they deserve."