Nicholas Richter saw the writing on the wall.
A jury had deliberated a little more than two hours Thursday afternoon before indicating it had reached a verdict in the case against him.
Waiting for the Douglas County jury to file in and announce his fate, Richter — the former Ralston elementary teacher on trial for touching students — slid his wedding ring off his finger. He took off his watch and unloaded his wallet from his pocket.
One by one, he handed those items to his wife — inmates aren't allowed personal belongings.
Tears in his eyes, he hugged her.
Moments later, his hunch was confirmed. A jury of five men and seven women declared Richter, 59, guilty of three counts of sexual assault in the repeated touchings of students in his class.
Three honors students, ages 10 to 12, testified that Richter had touched them more than 15 times each in class. Two students said he touched their penises repeatedly over their clothing. A third student said Richter repeatedly massaged and groped his buttocks, also over his clothing.
Their testimony was supported by a middle-aged man who testified he also was groped by Richter when he was a student in a Council Bluffs school in the mid-1980s.
Richter faces up to five years in prison on each count.
This week's retrial came after a jury in August reached a stalemate over whether Richter was guilty. Jurors in that case said they had a hard time determining whether Richter was touching the boys for “sexual gratification.”
This jury had no such struggle.
Prosecutors Beth Beninato and Amy Jacobsen credited Richter's victims for their courage in coming forward and seeing the case through for 20 months.
The boys had to miss school in August and this month to take the stand and replay the sordid allegations against their one-time favorite teacher: How he would call them up to grade their papers. How he would grope them, over their clothing, as he looked over their work. How they kept it a secret until one of their friends blurted it out while taunting one of the boys after school.
Their testimony was at times tense and at times tedious as Richter's attorney, Joe Howard, methodically picked at the boys' accounts, based on previous interviews.
A fourth alleged victim chose not to testify in the second trial. His account had not been as definitive as the three others, and his family told prosecutors they didn't want to put him on the stand again, Beninato said.
Beninato said the boys were consistent and courageous.
When one of the boys was asked if he knew the difference between the truth and a lie, he told the jury: “I'm a Boy Scout and Boy Scouts don't lie.”
“For 20 months, they had to go up against a trusted guy, a reputable guy,” she said.
“They and their parents stood up and said, 'We're doing this because it is the right thing to do.'”
Prosecutors also credited the 40-year old man who testified that Richter had rubbed his buttocks as he had his paper checked when he was Richter's student in the 1980s.
“He didn't get anything out of this,” Beninato said.
After the verdict, District Judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf revoked Richter's bail.
Richter dropped his head and began crying as he was led out in handcuffs.