Nearly two weeks after he was acquitted of official misconduct, former Miami Northwestern Senior High School Principal Dwight Bernard broke his silence.
On Wednesday, May 12, Bernard told a roomful of reporters that his life would never be the same.
“I don’t think my life could ever go back to being the way it was. This was trauma. It was emotional, psychological, and in many instances, physical. This was trauma, so to say that I’m going to revert back to the way I was on June 5, 2007, that’s highly unlikely,” Bernard said.
In June 2007, Bernard was arrested and charged with two felony counts of official misconduct. He was accused of covering up a sex scandal that involved one of Miami Northwestern’s star football players.
Prosecutors alleged that Bernard failed to call police after he was informed that then-18-year-old Antwain Easterling had sex with a 14-year-old girl in one of the school’s bathrooms. They accused Bernard of succumbing to pressure from the community and alumni and placing the school’s football legacy over academics and the well-being of the female student.
On April 30, after deliberating for only 20 minutes, the jury returned with a not- guilty verdict. Bernard said he was glad the jury saw things from his point of view, and blasted the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office for pursuing him what he called an unfounded witch hunt.
“I personally think it was a waste of taxpayers’ money, and I think the jury thought that also. The state attorney should let the district do its work first. They treated the case like it was a capital murder case, and more than 50 years of prosecutorial
experience was spent on convicting the principal of a high school,” Bernard said.
His attorney, Michelle Delancy, agreed. She accused the State Attorney’s Office of selectively prosecuting cases that were beneficial to them.
“The process is so political. There’s no oversight. The state attorney’s office picks up and prosecutes because they want to or it’s politically feasible to,” Delancy said.
Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office, said his office simply upheld its legal responsibility to prosecute based on the grand jury’s indictment.
“There were 21 Dade County citizens who were members of the grand jury and they indicted Dwight Bernard on this matter.
That and the grand jury report should speak for itself,” Griffith said.
Now that the ordeal is over, Bernard said he’s both relieved and thankful for the immense amount of people who were in his corner.
“People supported me in ways I could never describe. I felt a collective sigh of relief, not only in the courtroom but (also for) those people in the community who have supported me as well,” Bernard said.
Larry Williams was happy with the verdict. As president of the Miami Northwestern Alumni Association who has held the
position for 15 years, Williams said the association had a great working relationship with Bernard.
“He’s an asset to our community. He is someone that our kids can see as a positive role model. I think he was sensitive to the kids, he had a great relationship with the community and he embraced the tradition of Northwestern. We wish him the best,” Williams said.
Williams also stressed that in spite of rumors, the alumni association never pressured Bernard into letting Easterling play.
“We supported Dr. Bernard and it was unfortunate that this incident took place. By no means has the alumni association put any pressure on Bernard or any other administrator on any level to do anything that would be perceived as wrongdoing,” Williams said.
As for his career, Bernard doesn’t know what his next step will be. With over 20 years of experience in education, he wants to one day return to being a principal.
“I don’t have any intention of leaving the profession I’ve worked so hard to garner a reputation in. If I had my way, I would still be the principal.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Dwight Bernard