Severine Wamala goes to trial

Disclaimer: The Chess Drum takes no position of guilt or innocence against Severine Wamala.

Last September, a disturbing story broke about the arrest of Severine Wamala on counts of incest and rape while serving as a math teacher at Lowell High School. Three young women have confessed that Wamala had repeatedly sexually assaulted them. It was said that one was assaulted as early as age 10. Wamala debunks these claims and while languishing in state prison (ordered held on $1 million bail) demanded a speedy trial.

Wamala, a native of Uganda, immigrated to the U.S. in 1988. He became a citizen and earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. The 46-year old chess organizer is also known by his three children, Jacob, Jessica, and Yowana, all standouts in their age categories. Jacob has a USCF rating of 2073 and Jessica has represented her state in the Polgar Championship for Girls and was a standout basketball player. The sad part is that this episode may have caused irreparable damage to the family since there was a domestic aspect to the case.

In a recent press release from the Lowell Sun, they have stated that the Wamala trial has begun. A couple of months ago, Wamala had written a letter to the Boylston Chess Club asking for support and a pleading for a speedy trial. At that point he had been held for nine months, unable to raise the $1 million. There are no further details about the trial or the case, but we will stay tuned for future developments.

Lisa Redmond, “Rape trial begins for ex-teacher,” Lowell Sun, 19 August 2007.

Related Google links on the Wamala case.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

17 Comments

  1. I just read this on a blog called, “Teachers and Trash Education.” It is a site that logs cases surrounding educators committing wrongful acts… including sexual abuse, drug possession and other behavioral matters.

    TRIAL POSTPONED: Problems with two victims who have “backed away” from their statements to police has caused a delay of the trial. The judge has postponed the trial until September 4. Following is an excerpt and the link:

    Judge Bernard Hampsey said he postponed the trial until Sept. 4 over the “strenuous objections” of Wamala and his lawyers. The trial had been scheduled to start Monday morning in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

    On Monday, however, Wamala’s lawyers presented information to prosecutors stating that two of the three alleged victims, who together account for 12 of the 34 charges against Wamala, told an investigator last year police pressured them into making statements during the interviews in which they reported the alleged rapes.

    The women’s interviews with police were recorded, and police found other evidence, including a diary, to corroborate their statements, prosecutors have said.

    The two women appeared in court Monday afternoon, where prosecutors had them served with subpoenas for the upcoming trial.

    It’s not clear to what extent, if any, the women have changed their statements, but both women assured Hampsey they are willing to testify truthfully and without any help from court-appointed lawyers.

    Read Andrew Wolff, “Ex-teacher’s rape trial postponed,” Nashua Telegraph, 21 August 2007.

     

    The case gets more complicated in Lisa Redmond’s piece. Here’s an excerpt:

    In the incident of alleged witness tampering, Chadwick said the youngest alleged victim received an anonymous letter and e-mail in February from the “chess community” in which she was urged to drop the charges against Wamala, a highly respected chess champion, or she would be responsible for his death.

    Chadwick suggested the handwriting in the letter seemed to be consistent with one of the other victims and one of them could have forwarded the e-mail to the younger victim.

    Although the two older alleged victims were assigned court-appointed lawyers to explain to them the allegations, neither victim would cooperate.

    “The pressure I got from the state. … I want to keep my distance. I don’t want to be threatened anymore,” one of the alleged victims told the judge.

    Read Lisa Redmond, “Judge postpones ex-teacher’s trial Prosecutor: Witnesses may recant; youngest alleged victim received threatening letter,” Lowell Sun, 21 August 2007.

  2. Wow! I hope Severine Wamala is not Guilty. I have played against Severine in tournaments and all I can say is that he came across as the last person that I would ever associate with this type of disturbing news. I pray that the outcome of the trial will confirm his proclamation of innocent. Any other outcome, will be a devastating loss to his family and to a certain degree a significant loss to us. Let’s pray for him.

  3. Thanks DG.

    It was painful last year since I had just seen Severine and the three chess-playing children at the 2006 U.S. Open. It was hard to fathom that such a turn could take place. Jessica was in such good spirits at the Polgar tournament and always wears that bright smile. Jacob was walking around with that confident swagger.

    Anyway several people have asked me why I did not cover the case last year (only included news links). My reasons were personal. I consider myself a chess acquaintance of the Wamala family and I wanted to respect their privacy. I did not want The Chess Drum to be seen as a lightening rod for debate for or against Severine.

    I believe the enough time has passed and on the eve of the trial, there will be more answers than questions. I am waiting for the answers… either way I’m not sure how the Wamala family will be able to get through this.

  4. The Boylston Chess Club have been following the Wamala trial with great interest and on their blog they have provided links to media reports. The Severine Wamala trial commenced after initial postponement. Below are the links and brief excerpts.

    Lisa Redmond, “Teen tells of alleged rapes by teacher,” Lowell Sun, 6 September 2007.

    Wamala is accused of raping three women: the now 16-year-old, who lives in a Milford, N.H., foster home, and two women in their 20s, both of whom live in Lowell. The two older women allegedly have recanted their accusations against Wamala.

    In his opening statement yesterday morning, defense attorney Anthony Sculimbrene portrayed Wamala as a boy who dodged rotting corpses in the streets of Uganda, fleeing his native country to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and pursue the American dream.

    But on Sept. 11, 2006, the teenager, who Sculimbrene described as “willful, rebellious, yet brilliant,” made accusations of sexual abuse that sent the “machinery of the Nashua Police Department into high gear.”

    Wamala has never admitted to any sexual abuse. Prosecutors say he admits to giving out “special hugs,” without explaining what those hugs entail.

    Albert McKeon, “Math teacher’s rape trial opens,” Nashua Telegraph,” 6 September 2007.

    The prosecution’s and defense’s opening arguments in Hillsborough County Superior Court focused on how one witness will testify that Wamala raped her, but also how two other alleged victims may offer testimony different from what they told police in September 2006.

    For First Assistant County Attorney Roger Chadwick, that meant telling the jury he’s not sure what those two alleged victims will say on the stand. If they don’t stick to initial statements that Wamala sexually assaulted them, then jurors should consider why they have since changed their stories, he said.

    Prosecutors have suggested that Wamala pressured the women to change their testimony.

     Son Hoang, “Sex assaults trial begins in Nashua,” Union Leader, 6 September 2007.

    The first woman to accuse Wamala took the stand yesterday and described the assaults, which she said occurred from October 2005 to August 2006.

    “He told me not to tell anybody,” she said of Wamala. She went on to describe how Wamala was able to assault her several times, usually in his own bedroom, without anyone else discovering it.

    The woman eventually disclosed the assaults last September to Nashua police detectives last, who also questioned two other women who stated that Wamala had assaulted them. Those two women later retracted those allegations and were subpoenaed at a hearing last month.

    Wamala’s public defender, Anthony Sculimbrene, said during his opening statement that first accuser made the allegations because she was angry with Wamala and the other two were pressured by Nashua police “machinery” eager for a conviction.

  5. WAMALA FOUND GUILTY ON 11 COUNTS

    Severine Wamala
    Photo by Associated Press

    NASHUA — A former math teacher at Lowell High School was found guilty of 11 counts of aggravated sexual assault today.

    A jury found Severine Wamala, 46, formerly of 6 Danforth Road, Apt. 22, guilty of 11 felonies each punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, and acquitted him on a twelfth charge.

    His main accuser was a 16-year-old girl. Several other charges involving two other women were dropped after the women recanted statements they made to police. Wamala took the witness stand in his own defense during the rape trial.

    Posted at Nashua Telegraph Friday, September 14, 2007 – 03:25 PM

  6. For the first time, I’d like to comment on the case.

    When I learned of the accusation last year, I was completely shocked since I had just seen the Wamala family at the US Open in Chicago. Jacob (rated 2070+ USCF) had his usual confident swagger and was socializing very easily with his peers. He scored 6/9 and looked to be shaping into quite a player. Jessica was competing in the Polgar tournament and seemed to be enjoying the company of the other participants. She often flashed her million-dollar smile. Yowana had grown so tall and was beginning to sprout toward his teen years. I had interacted with Severine on occassion but it was usually about his children’s activities. He had spent most of his time as a chess organizer.

    On a human level, the Wamala family had been a beacon of light in the chess community. The children are immensely talented children and they often were the center of attention at tournaments. Severine Wamala, the accused, was a man that took an obvious pride in his children’s success. The public will never know the true details of what happened in this case, but certainly the pain of seeing a family destroyed is immense. I express my deepest regrets and would personally wish the Wamalas the best in the future. Let’s also hope that their relatives, friends and those in the chess community will allow them to heal and get past this sordid chapter in their family history.

  7. News Sources on the Wamala Case

    RYAN HALLIDAY,Ex-Teacher convicted in Rape Case,” Nashua Telegraph, 15 September 2007.

    LISA REDMOND, “Ex-Teacher, Guilty of Rape,” Lowell Sun, 15 September 2007.

    ALBERT McKEON, “Ex-teacher’s fate in rape case in jury’s hands,” Nashua Telegraph, 14 September 2007.

    ANDREW WOLFE,Witness affirms rape testimony,” Nashua Telegraph, 13 September 2007.

    ANDREW WOLFE, “Many assault charges tossed,” Nashua Telegraph, 12 September 2007.

  8. Wow! This is the 1st I’ve heard this tragedy about Wamala. I certainly hope he’s not really guilty, and that the appeals process works in his favor. This whole story sounds as bizarre as the one about the little British girl who went missing in Portugal, and recently the parents have become suspects? I don’t personally know Wamala, but I had planned on attending one of his tournaments, then had to back out at the last minute. His communications with me about the tournament seemed so cordial and professional. But then e-mail doesn’t reveal much about a person anyway! The thing that’s bugging me is that I can’t figure out how a legal process could even consider condemning man to prison for possibly the rest of his life based on something as shaky as a letter placed in a time capsule? I mean, a teenager, or anybody for that matter, could fabricate whatever they want in a letter. It all seems soooo bizarre! If innocent, I am certainly praying that Wamala gets off, and can go on with his life! 😥 ❓ 😡 😡 😡

  9. No, he’s not innocent. He was sentenced to 20-40 years this morning.

    Yes, incest does “seem sooooo bizarre,” but you know, some folks give in to the urge to take comfort in their children, and some give in on a regular basis. After the fact, when called to account for their actions, some who give in to that urge will admit their wrongdoing and heal their relationships with the family members whose trust and innocence they have betrayed. Others — like Wamala — will bend over backwards to portray their supposed loved ones as manipulative liars out to ruin their pristine reputations. You should have heard him speak this morning (I did); it was absolutely disgusting, I don’t care how many quotations from John Locke or Thomas Jefferson he was ready toss out in the hope of getting a lighter sentence. Wamala is getting everything a man who sexually exploits his own flesh and blood deserves.

  10. Wamala sentenced for repeated sexual assaults on girl
    Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    By ANDREW WOLFE Telegraph Staff
    awolfe@nashuatelegraph.com

    Listen to Podcast 

    NASHUA – A former Lowell (Mass.) High School math teacher and chess coach was sentenced Monday to 20-40 years in prison for repeatedly raping a young girl.

    Speaking before he was sentenced, Severine Wamala, 46, formerly of 6 Danforth Road, Apt. 22, attacked the girl one last time, saying she had always been a difficult child and was prone to lying. He also said he loves and forgives her.

    Judge Robert Lynn has prohibited Wamala from having any further contact with the girl as a condition of his sentence.

    Wamala had been jailed since his arrest last year and was convicted after a trial in September in Hillsborough County Superior Court. He plans to appeal his conviction on 11 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, his lawyer, public defender Anthony Sculimbrene said.

    Prosecutors had charged Wamala with raping two other young women as well, but those charges were dismissed after both women recanted, and testified police had pressured them into making false allegations against him.

    Lynn told Wamala on Monday he believes Wamala is guilty of raping all three women and called the suggestion that police coerced them to make false allegations “baloney.”

    Prosecutors had urged an even stiffer sentence of 30-60 years in prison. Assistant County Attorney Patricia LaFrance recognized Wamala won’t become eligible for parole unless he admits his guilt as part of the prison’s sex-offender treatment program and thus may serve the maximum term, effectively a life sentence.

    “If he chooses to step up and admit what he did, he has the chance to get out of prison before he dies,” she said. “It’s on him . . . the ball is in his hands.”The victim, now 16, said though her life has improved since his arrest, Wamala had “ruined my life in a lot of different ways.”

    “There’s nothing he can do to erase the past six years of my life. The damage is done,” she said.

    The girl testified at trial that Wamala began to assault her more than six years ago in Lowell. Lowell police have not brought charges against Wamala for the alleged assaults there, however. The girl said Wamala raped her at least once a month in 2005 and 2006 in Nashua.

    The girl secretly wrote about the assaults in both sixth grade and eighth grade and later gave the notes to her brother, who turned them over to police.

    One of the other women whom Wamala was accused of raping also wrote of it in a diary, prosecutors said. The woman disavowed any knowledge or ownership of the diary when confronted with it in court, however, and jurors never got to see it.

    The other woman whom prosecutors had charged Wamala with raping spoke in his defense Monday, saying she regretted she had ever accused him and is convinced of his innocence.

    “Words can be easily spoken. It doesn’t mean they are true. Words can be written. It doesn’t mean they are true,” she said.

    Wamala spoke at length before he was sentenced. Wamala said he agrees that a person found guilty of sexual assaults should be removed from society, but he said juries sometimes make mistakes and did so in his case.

    Wamala said the girl had lied many times during her life, usually to cover up when she got into trouble. He spoke at length about instances when he said she lied about hitting another child in sixth grade, using a cell phone in school and sharing test answers with friends. Repeatedly, he remarked, “everything I have said can be verified by someone other than me.”

    “You have fooled people,” he told her. “You know how to make yourself a victim, to appear as a victim.”

    Wamala also said a close friend of his, who was not present, had said he would trust Wamala with his own daughter.

    Lynn eventually asked Wamala to wrap up his remarks, while Wamala was in the midst of an tangential explanation on the meaning of the saying, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

    Robert Feldstein of New York City praised Wamala for his efforts to promote chess, organizing tournaments and helping and coaching players.

    “Any time that Dr. Wamala serves in prison will be a great loss to the chess community,” Feldstein said.

    Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or awolfe@nashuatelegraph.com.

  11. Well,
    I feel very sad to read a story like this one. I dont know much about the accused but all I will say is that it is sad if the girls were violated. Such a trauma never heals and I hope that the truth will prevail one day. I fell some thing has gone wrong in the world today. People are behaving like animals,always acting without thinking. Its very sad.
    I dont know what is becoming of the male folks. In my country, we read of these kinds of violations on a daily basis. It is absurd! If men want to have sex why not pick on some on their own size?Its not fair to ruin the life of an innocent soul without being given the right to choose.
    I hope know of people who have done such acts and have gone their way free. Loose and at liberty to pick on their next victims and still plead innocence.(Most of these offenders are so cool and respected,you wouldnt even suspect them.They manage to convince even the victim that they are not capable of such a thing and lead the victim into believing that they are just delusional). I would love it if stiffer punishment was brought down on all such characters including the death sentence so that all would be perpetrators know just what will be waiting for them for doing such an evil thing.
    As for Wamala, I hope he is not guilty in his conscience. May God bring his family all the much needed strength. I pray that they wont let the shadow of what has happended break them apart.
    I wish to end by resounding stiffer punishment on all offenders. Please Ches players stay away from trouble and live up to the expectations!

  12. I just received a note about Severine Wamala who is serving a prison term at New Hampshire Correctional Facility.

    “Wamala is doing well at NCF. He teaches 3 classes to help inmates earn their GED and he’s playing chess too.”

  13. It is interesting that his daughters filed lawsuits almost a year ago alleging their accusations were coerced. The Judge threw out the lawsuit and called it “baloney”.

  14. There is no way a Ugandan man can rape his child. The accusation were put together by his ex wife and daughter for displine reasons. The court bought into it and I sure the judge is so happy for having sentenced a black man!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button