A former Hudson middle school teacher pleaded not guilty Friday to charges she repeatedly raped a 13-year-old girl a decade ago after meeting her at the school where she worked and where the child was a seventh-grader.
Caitlin Harding, 37, of Wellesley, was arraigned via Zoom in Middlesex Superior Court on one count of rape of a child by force, three counts of aggravated rape of a child, and six counts of indecent assault and battery of a child under 14.
She is accused of sexually assaulting the child multiple times in 2010, according to a statement of the case filed by prosecutors in Middlesex Superior Court Friday. Harding met the girl when she was in her sixth-grade class at Hudson’s John F. Kennedy Middle School, which closed at the end of the 2013 school year.
When the girl was in seventh-grade, Harding began seeing her socially outside of school, according to prosecutors. During the summer of 2010, before the girl started eighth grade, Harding allegedly changed their relationship into a sexual one during a trip to get ice cream, prosecutors said.
“The defendant took the victim out for ice cream, pulled the car over and told the victim that she loved her, while placing her hand under the victim’s pants” and performing a sexual act on the child, prosecutors wrote.
According to prosecutors, Harding sexually abused the child on multiple occasions during the summer of 2010.
The relationship ended when the victim’s sister discovered a video of the child performing a sexually suggestive dance on her cellphone, according to prosecutors. The sibling brought the video to the attention of their mother, who severed the connection between Harding and the child, prosecutors said.
Harding’s former wife told police that Harding spent a lot of time with the child during the summer of 2010, according to prosecutors, who added that the former wife had reported seeing a text message in which Harding had declared her love to the child. “When she confronted the defendant, she admitted to kissing the victim twice,” according to prosecutors.
Middlesex Superior Court Judge Hélène Kazanjian released Harding on personal recognizance, ordered her not to have any contact with the alleged victim or witnesses in the case, and barred her from doing any work that would result in unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 years old.
Attorney Brad Bailey, who represents Harding, said Harding “emphatically and unequivocally denies the allegations against her.”
He said Harding has had “an exemplary career” as an educator, mentor, and coach, and now works as a health care provider coordinating the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
“We will be pursuing a vigorous and aggressive defense that I am confident will ultimately expose the outright lies and fabrications behind these false allegations,” he said.
Bailey said the charges, alleging events that occurred more than 10 years ago, “can’t help but raise questions and ought to be regarded with a high degree of skepticism and subjected to extremely strict scrutiny.”
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is well-known for representing victims of clergy sexual abuse, said he represents the woman who has alleged she was sexually assaulted by Harding as a child.
“Any sexual assault victim shows an enormous amount of courage, strength, and determination by coming forward and reporting sexual assault,” Garabedian said. “Because of the pending criminal action, I have no additional comment at this time.”
Hudson School Superintendent Marco Rodrigues said in a statement Thursday that the school district was “extremely surprised and disappointed to learn of the disturbing allegations” against Harding, whom he said had voluntarily left her position as a teacher at the middle school in June 2013.
“At no time during or after her employment in Hudson have we ever received information indicating that she engaged in any type of conduct that involved potential or actual harm to students,” Rodrigues said in the e-mailed statement. “Had we received any indication of such conduct we would have taken swift and decisive action. We do not, and will not, tolerate any behavior by employees that jeopardizes the health, safety, and welfare of our students.”
Harding had been a teacher in Hudson for seven years, then became a social studies teacher at the Pollard Middle School in Needham in August 2013.
She was fired from that job four years later after another teacher reported that Harding had become threatening and abusive when she broke off their three-year romantic relationship, according to court filings in a civil suit brought by Harding against the town.
In her wrongful termination suit, Harding accused the town of firing her because of her gender and sexual orientation. But the town said in court filings that an internal investigation found that Harding had harassed her former girlfriend and fellow teacher with threatening texts and e-mails, and also confronted other teachers in front of students during class — constituting “conduct unbecoming of a teacher.”
The lawsuit was dismissed last year after the parties notified the court that they had reached a settlement.