Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley has decided not to prosecute anyone who was involved with the Santa Barbara’s MAD Academy controversy

“Our investigation and legal research resulted in us finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove, beyond a  reasonable doubt, that Pablo Sweeney contacted minors John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 with the intention of committing a sex crime,” Dudley said in a statement to Noozhawk.

“Additionally, there was also insufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Daniel Williams, or other school officials had reasonable suspicion that John Doe 1 was a victim of “sexual abuse.”

The Santa Barbara Unified School District voted in May of 2019 to remove Williams as director of the MAD Academy (Multimedia Arts and Design Academy) at Santa Barbara High School.

In May, Mark Sherman and his wife, Tami Sherman, made misconduct allegations at a school board meeting. They alleged that Sweeney, the former operations director, sent inappropriate texts to their son, now a UC Berkeley student, when he was in the academy.

The texts were initially reported in January 2018. Sherman complained to the board that Williams took no action on the matter, downplayed the accusations, and said that their son received the inappropriate texts because the Montecito debris flow caused “crossed wires,” which somehow forced text messages to be sent to the wrong person.

After a year of no action, the former student reported the information to Santa Barbara High Assistant Principal Tiffany Carson in January 2019.

Sweeney was removed from his position, and Williams was put on temporary leave in April. Williams returned to his position in early May with the understanding that he would retire at the end of the school year.

“Clearly we are disappointed,” Mark Sherman told Noozhawk. “As reflected in all levels of society, the standards of criminality should not be confused with the standards of morality or ethics. We stand by the action that we took as a family.”

Elise Simmons, principal at Santa Barbara High School, said she is looking forward to the Mad Academy’s future. 

“We are focusing on creating a really strong career tech ed academy that focuses on the multimedia design and college and career skills,” Simmons said. “We are going to continue the hard work we are doing.”

Simmons has since hired two co-executive directors, AJ Henning and Bret Griffith, along with an outreach coordinator, Dana Valikai. Simmons said she is appreciative of the parents who have been supportive during the past few months. 

“I am really proud of the direction the MAD Academy team has taken,” Simmons said. “I am looking forward to where the MAD Academy is headed.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.