Salem, Massachusetts: A former gym teacher at Saltonstall School appeared in court on Thursday, June 16, where he was arraigned on 32 counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14.
36-year-old Daniel Hakim entered a plea of not-guilty to the charges against him. He was ordered to be held on $200,000 cash bail with a stipulation that he be subject to GPS monitoring should he post bail.
His defense attorney Syrie Fried tried to downplay the allegations against her client by saying that it's no more serious than inappropriate touching according to WBZ-TV. "There's not a rape allegation here for example," she stated.
Her remarks were not well received by concerned parents.
"We're talking about 6, 7, and 8-year-old children, so to minimize this by saying there was no penetration is horrific," WBZ-TV quoted Lise Hansen-Domato, a parent of a student at Saltonstall School as saying.
The initial investigation began into Hakim's conduct in 2018 at which time he was immediately remove from the school and placed on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation. At the end of the school year he was "separated from service."
At that time, the Department of Children and Families allegedly determined that the allegations against Hakim of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 4th grade student were "unsupported" and "not prosecutable."
In 2020 Hakim's teaching license was revoked and in 2021, investigators received a break in the case when another student came forward to report an incident that occurred in 2016.
That individual's statements eventually led to Hakim being charged with seven counts following which, school officials held a forum with parents. As a result of this, more students came forward to speak with police.
As a result of these new allegations, police filed the additional charges on June 14 after identifying a total of 10 victims between 2015 and 2018.
"Certainly if there are any other victims out there, we want to know about it, both so that we can enhance the criminal case, and anybody who was victimized, hopefully we can get them some help," Salem Police Chief Lucas Miller stated.
"The victims, all of whom are female, report inappropriate sexual contact by the defendant while they were elementary school students and the defendant was their gym teacher," Assistant District Attorney Haleigh Reisman said in presenting the state's case during the arraignment.
"The 32 indictments returned by the grand jury encompass the District Court complain, with that original victim, as well as the reports filed by the nine additional victims," Reisman continued. "They include allegations of inappropriate touching of children's breasts and buttocks, reaching up young girl's shirts or down their pants, touching their buttocks or genital areas inside and outside of their underwear, and hugging inappropriately."
Hakim's attorney tried to appeal to his character in arguing for a lower sentence, gesturing to the gallery where community members had allegedly gathered in support of him and told the court, "What I want to really affirm or ague to the court is my client doesn't pose a risk to any of these people, and he's had no contact with any of them."
She went on to tell the court, "My client has very, very strong ties to the community. He has five children. He's employed. He works as a recruiter."
Superior Court Judge Thomas Drechsler however, argued that "The incentive for someone to flee a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence is substantial," even more given "this number of victims."
Salem Public Schools issued a joint statement attributed to Mayor Kim Discoll, police Chief Lucas Miller and Superintendent Dr. Steve Zirke saying in part, "The allegations for which Daniel Hakim has been arrested and charged are abominations. We are grateful for and applaud the cooperation of the victims and their families, their patience with the detailed investigation, and, above all, their courage in coming forward."