Public Safety

Former Cedar Rapids schools custodian accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl backs out of plea deal

Alleged sex acts did not happen on school grounds

Michael Beard
Michael Beard

CEDAR RAPIDS — A 54-year-old Cedar Rapids school custodian, who is accused of sexually abusing a girl for two years, was expected to enter a guilty plea Thursday, but backed out of the deal at the last minute.

After keeping the court waiting for nearly an hour, Michael Lynn Beard “decided he is not prepared to enter a plea today, and I can’t compel him to do so,” 6th Judicial District Senior Judge Robert Sosalla told members of the victim’s family, who were seated in the courtroom at the Linn County Courthouse.

Beard was expected to plead guilty to four counts of third-degree sexual abuse, for which he could have served up to 10 years in prison on each count.

Instead, the judge said, a new pretrial hearing will be set, and Beard either could decide again to take a plea deal or the case will go to trial.

“Sorry for the inconvenience,” the judge told the family, “but it’s Mr. Beard’s decision to make, and I can’t change that.”

The girl, who was 15 when the criminal complaint was filed last summer, told police Beard started sexually abusing her in June 2017, when she was 13.

Police said the abuse happened most recently in August at a Cedar Rapids residence. Beard was arrested Aug. 27.

The complaint states the sexual abuse incidents did not occur on school grounds.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Police investigators questioned the defendant, who admitted committing the sex acts with the girl, according to the complaint, but he claimed the acts were consensual.

Beard was a custodian in a dozen schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District for 27 years. He most recently worked at Madison Elementary School, according to the district.

The district placed Beard on administrative leave when the case came to light, district spokeswoman Akwi Nji said.

Before joining the Madison Elementary staff, Beard worked at Hoover, Grant, Pierce, Coolidge, Truman and Arthur elementary schools; at McKinley, Harding and Taft middle schools; and at Jefferson and Kennedy high schools.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.