Former Waterloo Teacher Convicted

By Jeff Reinitz, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

Former Waterloo, Iowa, teacher Larry Twigg, right, stands with his defense attorney James Metcalf during the verdict in Twigg's trial on five counts of lascivious conduct with a minor. Friday, April 8, 2011. (Jeff Reinitz/The Courier)

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By Richard Pratt

WATERLOO, Iowa - A former Waterloo teacher has been found guilty of coercing a 17-year-old student into partially undressing at the teacher's home.

Members of a Black Hawk County jury announced they had reached a verdict in the state's case against 53-year-old Larry David Twigg shortly before 1 p.m. Friday after beginning deliberations Thursday afternoon.

Twigg, who was let go from West High after the allegations surfaced in 2010, was convicted of all five counts of lascivious conduct with a minor. The charges are misdemeanors and carry up to one year in jail each. Sentencing will be at a later date.

The student testified that Twigg invited him to his home in December 2009 and January 2010 to make up class work and earn money. He said Twigg had him play a video game and remove an article of clothing every time he lost a life in the game. He also said Twigg spanked him, had him make snow angels in the yard wearing only his boxer shorts and poured chocolate syrup on him in the shower.

The defense argued that acts weren't sexual and said Twigg suffered from problems following an earlier traffic accident that resulted in head injuries.

Dr. Thomas Gratzer, a Minnesota psychiatrist who specializes in treating sex offenders, told jurors that Twigg’s actions both seemed to confirm and contradict standard sex offender behavior.

“The most obvious thing would be that it’s sexual, that’s how you interpret it,” Gratzer said.

Twigg’s attorneys argued he didn’t have the mental capacity at the time of the incidents to have specific intentions of enticing the boy into some sort of sexual situation. That may have been caused by a car accident years ago that affected his impulse control and judgment.

Gratzer said he didn’t believe the accident caused any problems, calling any trauma “mild.”

Twigg suffered from psychosomatic complaints — illnesses that aren’t rooted in a physiological cause — he blamed on the accident. Instead, the problems are caused by him suppressing his emotions.

“That didn’t start with the head injury, but it’s an example of the process,” Gratzer said.

It could be why Twigg didn’t recognize the sexual nature and rationalized it as something else. Twigg told authorities his actions were intended to punish the boy for losing at a game or to work off class assignments.

Gratzer also called the explanation unusual.

“It’s bizarre for even someone who has seen thousands of sex offenders,” he said.

Twigg’s behavior didn’t seem consistent with sex offenders. He showed low overall sexual interest in testing, compared with hypersexuality in offenders. He also an unusual step of crossing several personal boundaries with the boy but didn’t take the last final step.

“Usually, a sex offender doesn’t stop short of committing a sexual offense,” he said.

Assistant Black Hawk County Attorney Dustin Lies dismissed during closing arguments the idea that Twigg lacked mental capacity.

“I would submit to you that he was exactly himself that day,” Lies said.

Defense attorney James Metcalf said Twigg only began to understand what was going on when he sought counseling on his own accord after his arrest.

“I don’t think anyone did any psychiatric work on this case until Mr. Twigg started it,” Metcalf said.

Twigg was arrested a year ago on the charges and was fired from his teaching job.

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