Former Palmetto High teacher guilty of sexual battery on a student, 17, in his classroom
It took seven years to get Jason Meyers seated in a courtroom before a jury — but less than three hours for those four men and two women to find him guilty of a crime that could land him in prison for life.
An emotional three-day trial came to an end late Friday evening when Meyers, 47 and a former teacher at Miami Palmetto Senior High, was found guilty of three counts of statutory rape. Jurors determined he used his position of authority to have sex with a student when she was 17.
Meyers, who had denied the allegations, turned to face his wife, Kim, but betrayed little emotion after the verdict was read. Some family members and friends of his accuser burst into tears.
That former student, Heaven Rubin, decided to speak to media after the verdict and identify herself publicly. She said she hoped the decision would bring closure for other students she believes were also targeted.
“It’s really powerful. You know, the last seven years have been difficult. It’s consumed most of my life,” she said. ”And I’m really grateful to close this chapter and I’m grateful to the jury for listening and accepting my truth.”
Meyer’s defense attorney, Brad Horenstein, said the legal fight would continue. “There will be an appeal,” he said.
The quick verdict concluded a trial that was delayed by years over legal wrangling and the pandemic. The verdict also came only 16 months after a federal jury awarded Rubin $6 million, saying Miami-Dade Public Schools was responsible for the crime because it ignored past warnings about other alleged similar incidents between Meyers and other students.
Attorneys for Meyers — who is married with five children and who once sponsored a wildly popular Poetry Night at the school that took place four times a year — said their client initially wanted to take the stand in his own defense. But Meyers backed off after considering the areas of possible attack his testimony could open for state prosecutors.
One of the few witnesses prior to closing arguments Friday was Kim Meyers, 42. A ninth-grade teacher at Palmetto, she was nine months pregnant when her husband was arrested in 2016. She countered Rubin’s claim that she met Jason Meyers most days in his classroom for lunch, by saying her husband was home by 3 p.m. every day and that they often had lunch together in his or her classroom.
When Assistant Miami-Dade State Attorney Jessie Friedman suggested that meant the married couple had lunch each day with Rubin, she responded with a sharp, “no.”
Jason Meyers was arrested in late 2016 after Rubin — whom the Miami Herald and other media had previously only identified as H.R. — told police she had sex with her teacher in his classroom three times during the fall semester of 2015. Rubin, who is now 24, married and who works in communications for a major retailer in Seattle, took Meyers’ creative writing class in the fall of her senior year. During the trial she told jurors she developed a crush on Meyers because of the attention he gave her.
Leading up to their liaisons, which she claimed were inside Meyers’ locked-door classroom during the lunch hour, she said her teacher would push her to get more sexual in her literature and poetry. She also testified their conversations began to take on more sexual tones, at one point talking about her vagina and her having sex with her boyfriend.
During Friday’s closing, defense attorney Horenstein called her testimony “a very calculated act.” He pointed out that the state’s only evidence was based on Rubin’s allegations, saying they had no emails, texts, video or forensics. He repeatedly brought up the judgment awarded Rubin in October 2021.
“There is no evidence in this case other than the testimony of a liar with $6 million at stake,” Horenstein told jurors.
The lawsuit that led to that verdict claimed Jason Meyers was on Miami-Dade School’s radar as far back as 2008 when the principal at Michael M. Krop Senior High received an email claiming Meyers pursued sexual relationships with eight students. Those girls became publicly known as “Jason’s Girls.” That reference was banned from Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cristina Miranda’s courtroom during the criminal trial.
Countering Horenstein’s claim, Assistant State Attorney Jonathan Borst said when Rubin was 17, a multimillion-dollar verdict was the last thing on her mind.
“She’s not thinking about that. She’s thinking about the prom, thinking about her homework. She’s not thinking about suing the school board,” said Borst. “She cared about this man. She wanted to protect him.”
Rubin said Meyers “made it very clear to me he’d never get in trouble ... and he was wrong.”