(SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS) — Two years after San Jose schoolgirls branded a teacher as a “perv” and “creeper” who inappropriately touched kids and peeked into their restroom, a civil jury Friday found the children and their parents financially liable for defamation in a case that pitted the rights of the accused against the aim of reporting perceived abuse.

The jury awarded $362,653 in compensatory damages to former Catholic school physical education teacher John Fischler after finding the families spread false statements about him that damaged his reputation. The 49-year-old broke into a huge smile Friday when he heard the favorable verdict, which his lawyer characterized as “complete vindication.”

“I’m grateful the jury was able to see through the smoke screen and the truth came out.” Fischler said in a choked voice outside the courtroom. “There’s always going to be a scar. But the jury saw through the deception.”

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