Ex-teacher loses challenge to case


CARSON CITY -- The life imprisonment sentences a former Henderson elementary schoolteacher received for lewdness with three fifth-grade girls will stand.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously rejected an appeal filed by Mark Zana that challenged the three lewdness with minors charges and six possession of child pornography charges for which he was convicted in December 2007.

Zana, 41, is serving time in the Lovelock Correction Center. He received 10-year-to-life sentences on each of the lewdness charges and one to three years on each pornography charge.

In his appeal, Zana contended the Clark County district attorney's office inappropriately admitted testimony about previous encounters he had with female students in Pennsylvania in 1992 and in Henderson in 1998.

Records in the cases had been sealed when one student refused to testify and in the other after Zana agreed to a plea bargain not to teach minors.

Zana also contended that a juror at his trial in 2007 committed misconduct by going to a pornographic Web site to try to look at the pictures for which he was charged with child pornography.

Zana had contended the pictures did not show girls under age 16 in sexual situations, for which the child pornography law applies.

The case grew out of allegations by six students who said Zana either touched their breasts or invited them to place their hands in his pocket to get candy.

During their investigation, prosecutors discovered Zana had sealed records of accusations in Pennsylvania, where he was alleged to have fondled a girl's breast, and in Henderson, where he was accused of enticing a second-grader to touch his penis by getting candy out of his pocket.

Prosecutors sought to use the sealed cases to rebut arguments by Zana that the touching of his fifth-grade students was accidental.

District Judge Jackie Glass, at his 2007 trial, allowed students from the earlier cases to testify.

Justices said Glass appropriately excluded information from the sealed cases but correctly allowed the girls to talk about matters not subject to the sealing.

"Neither the Pennsylvania order nor the Henderson order erased the witnesses' memories of Zana's inappropriate conduct," the high court said.

Justices said that in a previous case, a decision by the Metropolitan Police Department to deny a private detective license to a convicted felon was upheld, though records of his crimes had been sealed.

The officers investigating his situation had personal knowledge of his criminal history.

While it was misconduct for a juror to try to find pictures of girls that police found on Zana's home computer, justices said, the incident did not rise to the level of granting Zana a new trial.

The juror never found the Web site, and his search was mentioned only briefly during deliberations, according to the court.

Zana also contended that he should not have been tried on child pornography charges because they were unconnected to the lewdness charges.

But the court said to prove the lewdness charges, the state had to show he touched young girls for the "purpose of gratifying his lust, passions or sexual desires."

The pornography found on his computer "suggests Zana found pornography images of young females sexually gratifying," the court said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

 

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