ELLICOTT CITY, Md. — Jurors on Wednesday heard a former Maryland School for the Deaf aide acknowledge to police that he touched girls’ buttocks and breasts in what he said was accidental contact in a narrow hallway.

Clarence Taylor III watched intently from the defense table as Howard County prosecutors played a more than four-hour video of his Dec. 6 police interview.

Taylor, 38, is charged with sexually abusing seven adolescent girls by hugging, kissing and fondling them at the school’s Columbia campus from 2008 to 2011. He also is accused of asking three of the girls to send him revealing photographs. Taylor has denied all charges.

The video came near the end of the state’s case against the former dormitory and teacher’s aide. Defense attorney Brandon Mead said he’s leaning toward having Taylor testify, possibly as soon as Thursday.

In the police interview, Taylor repeatedly denied any improper physical contact with students. He told police through an American Sign Language interpreter that he had apologized for any accidental touching, contrary to the alleged victims’ testimony.

People often collided in a hallway bottleneck, he said.

“It’s not just me, it’s other staff members, too,” Taylor said. “Anyone who walks down that hallway — that specific hallway.”

Taylor acknowledged that school officials put him on probation more than a year before his arrest for exchanging text messages with both male and female students. He said the messages were “just kind of small talk” that violated the school’s no-tolerance policy.

Prosecutors say investigators were unable to recover any incriminating text messages.

Taylor told police he suspected that other staff members were setting him up because they envied his popularity.

“All the kids always looked up to me,” he said. “They’ve always notified the younger generation: ‘I love Clarence.'”

Defense attorney Mead has suggested the girls conspired to get Taylor in trouble. One girl testified that she and two other alleged victims once had crushes on Taylor.

Taylor’s wife, Leah, said outside of court that she believes in her husband, with whom she has two daughters, ages 5 and 11.

“He’s a wonderful man, very charismatic and popular in our community,” she said.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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