Oprah School Trial Begins Behind Closed Doors

The trial of a school matron accused of abusing students at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls has begun in Johannesburg.

Thankfully, the details of the proceedings are being kept from frenized media coverage and public scrutiny, although, the known details of the accusations are both sad and devastating.

This scandal has been a PR nightmare for Oprah Winfrey and her Leadership School; I wonder how she and her company will work to restore the public’s trust in the face of such difficult accusations and pending the outcome of the trial.

“Tiny” Virginia Makopo, the dormitory matron at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls accused of abusing six students and a fellow dorm matron during a four-month period, went on trial today in Johannesburg.

Makopo, alternately pegged as both 27 and 28 years old, pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of indecent assault, common assault, verbal abuse, soliciting a minor to perform indecent acts and criminal injury.

After a court official read out each of the charges Makopo faced, the former matron, who spoke through an interpreter, told the court, “I plead not guilty.”

Judge Thelma Simpson wasted no time in granting a prosecution request to close the proceedings to the public and further protected the privacy of the schoolgirls by allowing them to testify via closed-circuit TV to prevent them from coming face-to-face with their alleged abuser.

To prepare for their testimony, the court’s windows were covered with brown paper and the passage to the courtroom was blocked to prevent the girls, all minors, from being seen or otherwise identified.

Prosecuting attorney Etienne Venter described the group of girls as “very scared and very, very emotional” going into the trial.

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