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LOUDOUN COUNTY, VA — Wayde Byard, the now-suspended spokesman of Loudoun County Public Schools, was found not guilty of perjury Thursday in a case related to the coverup of a bathroom rape.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for 90 minutes before reaching its verdict. Byard was accused of lying to a grand jury that he didn’t learn of the May 28, 2021, sexual assault of a ninth-grade girl until months later.
“You are free to go sir,” Chief Judge Douglas Fleming said after the verdict was read.
Outside of court after the verdict, Byard told the media: “People appearing before a grand jury, I have a suggestion. Learn three three-word phrases: I don’t know, I forget, and I can’t recall. If you say that, you’ll be fine.”
He said he may or may not return to his job as LCPS spokesman. “I’m going to talk to people next week,” he said. “FCPS is still my work family, has been for 23 years, so we’ll talk about that later.”
Asked about his lawyer’s assertion that he was a “fall guy” for LCPS administration, he said “I feel like maybe I was the stand-in for other LCPS employees who could have met this fate. There was a lot of people who appeared before the grand jury who were higher ranked than I was.”
The decision is the latest development in a story broken by The Daily Wire that shone a spotlight on public schools’ embrace of radical gender theory and helped now-Governor Glenn Youngkin ride a wave of parental anger to an upset victory. A troubled cross-dressing student was later convicted of raping a classmate in a girls’ restroom, the victim’s father was arrested for protesting at a school board meeting, and a grand jury report excoriated multiple officials’ handling of the matter.
Principal Timothy Flynn testified that on May 28, 2021, after a girl came to the office to report that she’d been raped, his staff called police and the girl’s family, and that the girl’s father showed up angry at what had occurred and caused a scene. Flynn testified that he told Byard clearly that day that a girl reported a rape and her father showed up at school angry about it, adding “This is bad.”
Byard, his boss Communications Director Joan Sahlgren, and now-indicted Superintendent Scott Ziegler drafted a statement that went out to parents that day that explained police presence at the school by saying the situation was simply a disruptive parent—without mentioning that the parent was angry because his daughter had just been raped—and stating that there was “no threat to the student body” even as the rapist was at large.
His grand jury testimony “might not have been 100% accurate,” defense attorney Jennifer Leffler said. “He gave it his best shot.”
But Leffler said Flynn’s memory was also not reliable because he wrongly said that a videoconference in which he told Superintendent Scott Ziegler and Deputy Superintendent Ashley Ellis about the sexual incident was at 7:30 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m.
Prosecutors said Flynn was openly telling those officials and it would make no sense that the one person he did not tell was Byard, whose job dealt with managing the school system’s reputation. “Mr. Byard wants us to believe that he never asks why the parent who caused a disturbance was upset. It defies common sense,” prosecutor Jason Faw said.
Leffler suggested that all those officials may have thought it was just voluntary sex in a school, but Faw said the superintendent and deputy superintendent’s involvement in writing the statement showed that they know the situation was more severe than a disruptive dad or voluntary sex–and that Byard knew that’s why his superiors got involved in his statement. “Why would the top two individuals in LCPS draft an email about an angry parent?” he said.
Faw said that Sahlgren knew of the sexual assault and Byard was the point person for relaying information to her. She testified to the grand jury that she thought Byard told her, but at trial, where her testimony could have corroborated Flynn’s, she said she wasn’t sure. She and other LCPS brass repeatedly said they did not recall basic details in court this week, a fact noted by lawyers from both sides.
Faw said Byard “accidentally commit[ed] the truth” when he told the grand jury that he learned in June–when Scott Smith was arrested at a school board meeting where Ziegler lied about the rape–that he was the father of the rape victim, even though he said he didn’t know there was a rape until October.
Laffer said Ziegler lying helped Byard’s case. “His boss then said we have no reports of sexual assault in bathrooms. He’s entitled to believe his boss.”
Smith told The Daily Wire after the verdict that Byard’s message to parents that day that misrepresented why police were at school was the start of a coverup. “We feel that the coverup started immediately that day on May 28 and continues on to this day. It seems no one can tell the truth or remember what happened,” he said.
Theo Stamos, the top special prosecutor and a former elected Democrat prosecutor, said in closing arguments that Byard did not merely misspeak. “The defendant is a paid communicator … His stock in trade is words … He knows everything that’s going on, he’s been in the school system for longer than any of these people. He asks questions and knows where the bodies are buried.”