TAMPA – A jury this week found a former Benito Middle School teacher not guilty – two years after he was arrested and released after he was accused of engaging in sexual activities with students.
Inconsistent testimony by the two students bringing up the allegations and evidence showing that Alex Jeffrey Hull was not alone with either of them on important dates and times resulted in their acquittal, according to his defense team.
Defense lawyers Maria Pavlidis, Lily McCarty and Jason Mayberry said they found evidence that a student claimed in an online post that she fabricated the charges against her former teacher. The state dropped the charges in this case.
The other student’s allegations were brought to trial this week. The defense said they presented alibi evidence for times when prosecutors alleged the sexual activity took place.
One day, the defense said, evidence showed that Hull had a Facetime call with his wife during the time in question. At other times, fellow teachers testified that Hull was in their classrooms with them – not the student. On another key date, the defense stated that the student was on a doctor’s appointment and was out of school.
On the stand, the student said she could not remember the dates on which the sexual activity allegations took place, lawyers said. They also said there was no physical evidence that a crime took place.
When Hull and his lawyers heard the jury’s verdict on Wednesday, they cried.
“This was one case where we really believe he was innocent,” said Pavlidis.
Hillsborough District Attorney Andrew Warren’s office defended her case against the teacher.
“This was a difficult case, but a good prosecutor must be willing to try difficult cases,” Warren’s office wrote in a statement. “We believe the victim, but knowing deep down that a person has committed a crime is different from being able to prove it in court.”
Hull was an eighth grade teacher when he was arrested in August 2018 after a parent reported the allegations to the Tampa Police Department. A 13-year-old student told police that according to an affidavit, Hull showed her photos of himself, including those showing him in boxer shorts and naked.
The student said he later gave her a sex toy, the affidavit said. Towards the end of the 2017/18 school year, the girl also said that according to the affidavit, Hull twice had sexual acts performed on him while they were alone in a classroom.
However, the defense said there was no evidence that her client committed a crime.
The former student, the lawyers said, testified that she was “in love” with her eighth grader teacher.
The defense suspected the couple was in love with the teacher and made up for the allegations after seeing Hull and his wife’s private texts on his phone. The girl who testified admitted looking through Teacher’s phone, lawyers said.
“Everything they said was very similar to what we think you saw with him and his wife,” McCarty said.
The defense also found that no text messages were exchanged between the students and the teacher. They said his internet search history was also devoid of sexual content.
Hull is no longer a teacher. The 33-year-old was released from the Hillsborough County School District after his arrest. He’s got a job now, but not even an acquittal can undo everything he’s endured.
“His life is destroyed no matter what,” McCarty said. “Nobody can give these students back their great teacher. All someone has to do is say it happened and your life is ruined. “