June 5, 2009

Jeff Toro gets three-year prison term for molesting 13-year-old child

By Ryan McCarthy, Appeal-Democrat
Jeff Toro police booking photo

June 5, 2009

Jeffrey Scott Toro was sentenced today in Sutter County (Calif.) Superior Court to three years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl who had been a babysitter for his children.

The girl in a letter to the court wrote that because of Toro's crime, "I was forced to grow up, to learn new words like 'molest.'"

"No one should ever go through that. Ever," she stated. "The only way to make it stop is putting people like Jeff in prison."

The girl told her parents about what Vacaville resident Toro, 33, had done Feb. 22, 2008 when he came to the family home.

"It's time for this nightmare for my daughter and our family to come to an end," the girl's father said in court before Toro was sentenced. "May the sword of justice penetrate the depths of his disgusting soul."

Toro's final words to 13-year-old girl after the molestation were "To be continued," the father said.

Judge Chris Chandler sentenced Toro to prison.

"There is no doubt," Chandler said, that the defendant "took advantage of a position of trust" in committing the crime.

While Toro has expressed remorse, the judge added, it is for getting caught rather what he did to the victim.

In court Toro said, "I'd like the healing to begin today" after his apology - "too little, too late," Toro said - for his actions.

Toro's parents wrote that their son is a dedicated husband who has helped coach a youth baseball program and umpired Little League.

"Jeff made an error in judgment," they said of their son's behavior, "but he did so with a great heart."

Toro's wife stated that the prospect of her husband going to prison is overwhelming.


Chamber of Commerce president Michael Kazarian faces trial over molestation charges

By Lorna Rodriguez, San Mateo County Times

June 5, 2009

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO - Enough evidence exists to try the president of the Belmont Chamber of Commerce for allegedly molesting a girlfriend's young daughter multiple times, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.

Michael Anthony Kazarian, a 50-year-old San Mateo resident, was held to answer on 18 criminal counts of child molestation by Judge Lisa Novak during a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

Kazarian has pleaded not guilty to the charges but remains in jail in lieu of $1.5 million in bail. A defense motion on Thursday to reduce bail was denied.

If convicted on all charges, he could face between 30 and 40 years, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

"We are strongly protesting the charges," defense attorney Steve Chase said. "There is a lot that the police don't know of in this case"...[Kazarian] is going to show that he is innocent and we hope to win the case."

Prosecutors said Kazarian allegedly fondled the girl's chest and genitals and made her bend over for spankings repeatedly between 1999 and 2002. The girl was between 8 and 10 years old at the time of the alleged molestations, San Mateo County District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.

Kazarian also made the child touch his genitals on one occasion, according to prosecutors. The girl reportedly didn't come forward for years because she feared reprisal, prosecutors said.

"We are satisfied that we have taken another step to get him to trial where he can present his side of the story, and we will present our side, and the jury will decide whether he is guilty of these crimes," Wagstaffe said.

Kazarian owns Beau Monde Flooring on Old County Road in Belmont. The company specializes in environmentally-friendly natural flooring and wool carpeting, according to its Web site.

He is expected to return to court on June 19 for his Superior Court arraignment.


Maciej Wieslaw Lata appears in court on molestation charges

Maciej Lata

By Rob Parsons, Willows Journal Staff writer

June 5, 2009

A Chico, Calif., man accused of trying to arrange meetings with a 12-year-old Orland girl he met online appeared briefly in court Friday morning, but did not enter a plea.

Maciej Wieslaw Lata, 24, was arrested May 26 at Lely Aquatic Park in Orland, following a month-long sting operation set up by the Orland Police Department. He faces one count of communicating with a minor with intent to commit lewd or lascivious acts and two counts of attempting to arrange meetings with a minor with intent to commit lewd or lascivious acts - all felonies.

If convicted, he faces between 5 to 7 years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender.

Lata's attorney, Dane A. Cameron, on Friday asked Judge Donald C. Byrd for a week to allow him time to get caught up on the case.

Lata remained in custody Friday in Glenn County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Police were contacted in early May by the girl's parents after Lata allegedly made "inappropriate" advances through her MySpace page. Online conversations between Lata and a person he believed was the 12-year-old continued. However, Lata was actually communicating with an Orland police officer, police said.

Lata attempted twice to meet the girl. At the first meeting May 16 in Aquatic Park Lata reportedly struck up a conversation with an undercover officer assigned to wait for him, asking if anyone had seen the 12-year-old.

At the second meeting, on May 26, Lata was arrested. Police served a search warrant at Lata's Chico home and seized four computers at the same time he was being arrested in Orland.

Lata posted a $10,000 bail bond the same day and was released.

The girl's family filed for a restraining order against Lata on May 28 and expressed frustration about his release. In court documents, the family alleged that Lata told the girl she was "beautiful," "gorgeous," and "that he thinks about her constantly."

The family requested a 150-yeard stay-away order, claiming their daughter was "afraid to even switch classes during school."

Lata was re-arrested May 30 after Judge Roy G. Macfarland revoked his bail bond at the request of Orland police. Police wanted a higher bail amount because they believe Lata is "a real danger to the community," Chief Bob Pasero said.

Pasero said police do not believe Lata attempted to contact the victim while he was out of jail.

Lata is set to appear again June 12 in Glenn County Superior Court.


June 4, 2009

Jury selection starts in Joseph Griesa sexual assault trial

Joseph Griesa


June 4, 2009

Jury selection was under way Wednesday in Yuba County Superior Court in the trial of Marysville towing company manager Joseph Griesa, who is facing multiple charges of sexually assaulting teenage girls who worked for him.

Opening statements by attorneys could take place as early as today according to Yuba County District Attorney Pat McGrath.

Griesa is charged with 13 felonies. He is free on $100,000 bail.

Charges include sexual battery, false imprisonment, assault likely to produce great bodily injury, forcible sexual penetration, oral copulation with a minor and concealment of a child from her legal guardian.

The alleged offenses involve five victims and occurred between April 2005 and November 2007. Each felony is punishable by three to eight years in prison.

A grand jury considered evidence from 21 witnesses. An indictment also charges that Griesa paid the girls without making unemployment insurance payments to the state.

Griesa pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is represented by Redwood City attorney Charles Smith.

In a related case, two Yuba-Sutter attorneys are charged with trying to bribe one of the alleged victims and with obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say Marysville attorney David Vasquez, who briefly represented Griesa, conspired with Yuba City attorney Jesse Santana to pay the girl $100,000 in exchange for her silence.

The attorneys claim they did nothing wrong by pursuing a civil settlement between Griesa and the girl and that police led them to believe criminal prosecution of Griesa was unlikely.

Arraignment of the attorneys was delayed this week until June 29. Neither has entered a plea to the felony charges.


Teacher Joseph Hudson Charged with Molestation; Parents and Teachers React

KCBA Fox 35

June 4, 2009

San Juan Bautista, Calif. - 58-year-old Joseph Hudson is being charged with several counts of molesting children under the age of 14. Under the conditional release agreement Hudson will wear a device to monitor alcohol consumption and he was told to stay away from schools and children.

The city of San Juan Bautista is a small community where everyone pretty much knows everyone else. So last week when news broke that a long time principal and current third grade teacher had been arrested for child molestation many people were shocked. But some of the dust has settled, and KION went to the School Board Meeting Wednesday to check in with the community.

Frank Reyes has two children who attend San Juan Elementary. He's upset by the possibility that Hudson molested children, "It's very disconcerting you send your children to school and hope their going to be safe. You don't want that to have to be a consideration, something that weighs on you throughout the day wondering if they are safe," said Reyes.

Reyes still plans on sending his youngest son to the school next year, and says Hudson is not guilty until convicted by a jury, "In the country we live in I'm all for due process of law and I think everybody is entitled to their rights. But you know, again it's about keeping the children safe first, above anything else," said Reyes.

Joyce Medeiros has been teaching at San Juan elementary for 24 years. Joseph Hudson was one of her teaching mentors, "I was devastated. I cried. I cried all weekend," said Medeiros. Medeiros says most of the teachers support Hudson, but she says the accusations are shocking. "He is one of the best teachers we have and he taught me a lot. He's a great teacher he's great with the kids. I can't say enough good things about him," said Medeiros.

Joseph Hudson is that talk of San Juan Bautista, with supports and doubters. The long time teacher and principal will now await his trial. So far investigators say there are anywhere from 7 to 10 students who have come forward with accusations of inappropriate touching by Hudson.

He'll be out on bail Thursday and expected back in court June 25th.


June 3, 2009

Obed and Annie Duran arrested for alleged sex crimes

Obed Duran

By Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter

June 3, 2009

A Lincoln couple was arrested Tuesday for unlawful sex with a minor, according to officials.

Obed and Annie Duran, 25 and 21, were arrested at a home in Lincoln by the Placer County District Attorney's Office investigators working in conjunction with the Lincoln police Department at 5:20 p.m., said Art Campos, spokesman for the Placer County District Attorney’s Office.

Obed Duran is accused of 12 counts of unlawful sex with a minor, an additional count of molestation, and one count of showing pornography to a minor, Campos said.

Annie Duran is accused of four counts of unlawful sex with a minor, according to Prosecutor Jeffrey Wood.

Two children belonging to the Durans have been taken into protective custody, Wood said.

The victim, a 13-year-old girl, was a family friend who sometimes stayed with the Durans over the weekend, according to Wood.

Obed Duran is accused of two sexual encounters with the victim, as well as one additional encounter involving himself, Annie Duran and the victim.

The events allegedly took place between August and December, 2007, Wood said.

The crimes were reported about a year ago, at which point the Durans fled the Lincoln area, Wood said. When the Durans recently returned, investigators tracked them down and arrested them.

The couple is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Auburn, according to Campos.

A preliminary hearing could be scheduled as quickly as 10 days from the arraignment, but Wood said he doesn't expect it to move that quickly.


June 2, 2009

School janitor Luis Mejia charged in special-ed molestation

By Eileen Frere (KABC)

June 2, 2009

ORANGE, Calif. - A janitor at El Modena High School has been charged with sexually assaulting a special-needs student. The employee has been released from custody.

The accused is a long-time janitor, 49-year-old Luis Mejia, at the high school in Orange. His alleged victim is a young girl in the school's special education program.

Mejia is now on administrative leave while he faces felony charges. Prosecutors allege that the sexual acts took place in his office at the school before, during and after classes over a four-month period, beginning in December 2008.

Mejia has worked for the school for 12 years.

Prosecutors allege the janitor groomed his victim, offering the special-education student gifts, money and candy.

"In addition to the number of cards and gifts that were exchanged, they had exchanged hundreds of text messages and phone calls between the two of them over a several month period as well," said prosecutor Robert Mestman.

"He would usually close the door. Several times he'd have someone tape over the surveillance cameras. Other times he'd have employees stand watch outside to alert him if any other people or his wife would show up on campus unexpected," Mestman said.

Prosecutors say the other employees who stood watch were not aware of the alleged abuse, and are not facing charges.

Authorities became aware of the allegations last month after the victim's friends went to the school principal.

"I think it's very disturbing knowing that we go to the same school with him, and he's like the janitor and walks around," said student Jessica Pelayo.

Luis Mejia faces a maximum of 12 years and eight months in prison if convicted.

Police say that Mejia allegedly tricked the other employees who stood watch outside the janitor's office.

In the case of the employee who covered up the security camera with tape, he was told, according to police, there was going to be painting done and the camera had to be protected from any paint.

The school district says that it is going to take a closer look at the police report once they receive it and then they'll go from there. They'll decide if those employees should face any disciplinary.

"It's really wrong because the girl didn't know what to expect because she' s disabled, and it's sort of disturbing because he has the keys and can do anything in any room," said student Sonia Cortez.

At least two other employees at El Modena High School have faced misconduct investigations since 2007, when the principal, Brent Bailey, resigned, accused of trying to engage in lewd acts at a park in Fullerton. Bailey pleaded guilty the same year.

Last year, Carlie Attebury, a music teacher at the school, was arrested, accused of having sex with a male student, starting when he was 15. Attebury plead not guilty to the charges.


June 1, 2009

Former pastor Andrew Belant convicted of child molestation


June 1, 2009

EUREKA, Calif. - A former youth pastor and teacher's aide is facing four life sentences after he was convicted in a Humboldt County court of child molestation and possession of child pornography.

Twenty-six-year-old Andrew Belant was found guilty Monday of more than a dozen charges. Authorities say he abused four boys, aged nine through 13, between January 2007 and March 2008.

At the trial, the boys testified the abuse began with inappropriate touching.

Belant denied abusing at least one of the boys and said he did not recall taking pornographic photos of boys found on hard drives in his possession.

Belant was a teacher's aide at Jacoby Creek Elementary School and a middle school ministry director at a Eureka church when he was arrested in March 2008.


May 30, 2009

Trial for psychiatrist William Ayres, accused of molestation, begins

By Elizabeth Pfeffer, San Mateo County Times

May 30, 2009

After two years of events worthy of a prime time legal drama, embattled child psychiatrist Dr. William Ayres will finally stand trial Monday. He is accused of molesting seven of his young male patients.

Ayres, 77, was a prominent member of the San Mateo medical community and served as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

He also performed physical examinations and inspected the genitalia of many of his juvenile psychiatric patients.

The once well-respected doctor was arrested in April 2007 and charged with 14 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with three victims, ages 9, 11 and 12 at the time of the alleged abuse.

The case's publicity brought forward four more accusers, bringing the number of Ayres' felony molestation counts to 20. He was freed on $750,000 bail.

The shocking story made international headlines, and the trial beginning Monday is expected to draw more public attention.

"We are exceedingly pleased that we are now on the doorstep of getting justice," San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Friday.

A trial judge will be selected by Judge James Ellis in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City on Monday morning.

Wagstaffe predicted jury selection and pretrial motions would take two weeks, but that the entire trial would last eight to 10 weeks.

Ayres practiced for decades in San Mateo County, seeing patients referred to him through local school districts and the county's juvenile court, in addition to his private practice.

His defense attorney, Doron Weinberg, has argued that physical examinations by psychiatrists are routine.

He previously told MediaNews that Ayres acted responsibly and that physical examinations were part of his "therapeutic model."

The lead prosecutor, San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Melissa McKowan, said at Ayres' initial arraignment there were assertions spanning 30 years.

Police first began investigating him in 2002 after being told by a man who was a patient of Ayres in the 1970s that the doctor had molested him on multiple occasions. But the case had to be dropped after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively changed the statute of limitations on such cases.

Childhood molestation can only be brought by victims who are younger than 29 or whose alleged abuse occurred after Jan. 1, 1998.

The San Mateo Police Department reopened the case in March 2006, at the urging of a friend of one of the victims to seek out other possible victims who fell within the legal statute of limitation.

That friend was New York-based freelance writer Victoria Balfour, who made it a personal crusade to unearth possible molestation victims of Ayres and help authorities build a case against him.

A search warrant was executed for Ayres' records, and a list was compiled of more than 800 patients.

Prosecutors believe they know of at least 39 former patients of Ayres who had been molested by him, but most did not fall under the state's statute of limitations.

After seven months of exhaustive and painful interviews with patients on the list, police took Ayres into custody at his San Mateo home on April 5, 2007.

Ayres' medical license was suspended, and has since expired.

On April 28, 2007, the child psychiatrist accused of molesting dozens of pre-adolescent boys in San Mateo County for decades declared his innocence of the multiple counts against him.

Now, more than two years later, the once-prominent child psychiatrist's fate will likely be left to a jury.

Weinberg was unavailable for comment about his defense arguments on Friday because he was in Los Angeles with another client, music producer Phil Spector, who received 19 years to life for killing actress Lana Clarkson.

In fact, the Spector murder contributed to the delay of Ayres' trial.

The first major setback came in February 2008 when Ayres was diagnosed with prostate cancer and a judge postponed the start of his trial from March 10 to June 23 of that year, in order for him to seek immediate treatment.

A month later, a state appeals court ruled that Ayres deserved a new hearing on a defense motion that could have destroyed the prosecution's case against him.

Weinberg planned to try to suppress evidence gathered from Ayres' patient files on the basis that the warrant violated the state's psychotherapist-patient privilege, lacked probable cause and permitted constitutionally prohibited searches.

The motion was ultimately dismissed but a further delay came when San Mateo County Superior Court Judge John Runde unexpectedly recused himself from the case.

Both prosecuting and defense attorneys were baffled by the event, and a new trial was set for January 2009. That date, however, conflicted with the scheduling of the Spector murder trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Ayres was known nationally as one of the country's top child psychiatrists; he was just as well respected on the Peninsula where he ran a private practice for decades.

He was probably one of fewer than 10 San Mateo County psychiatrists with a subspecialty in child and adolescent psychiatry, according to San Mateo County Medical Association Executive Director Sue Malone.

He told colleagues he performed medical examinations because that was the way he had been trained. He had done his residency in the early 1960s at the Judge Baker Center in Boston, one of the country's premier centers for the study of child psychology.

While most child psychiatrists admit that administering physical exams to patients is uncommon today, many professionals defend the practice as another instrument in a psychiatrist's toolbox.

A spokeswoman from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, of which Ayres was president for more than a decade, told MediaNews that performing physicals on patients in a psychiatric setting can be "consistent with good medical practice."

Wagstaffe said he expected attorneys on both sides to present expert opinions on the matter.

While the passing of time between charges and trial can often damage prosecutors' cases, Wagstaffe said all their witnesses were ready to go.

"This case is more than ripe for trial," he said.


May 20, 2009

Dentist Scott Henning Pleads Not Guilty on Molestation Charges

Scott Henning


May 20, 2009

Sonora, CA - Dr. Scott Henning has pleaded not guilty to four felony charges stemming from alleged inappropriate contact with a 15 year old girl.

The Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office served a warrant at the 46-year-old dentist's residence and place of business two weeks ago, and he was arrested and taken to County Jail.

Court documents indicate that some of the charges stem from Henning allegedly taking inappropriate pictures or film of a minor who was modeling. The alleged offenses occurred between September 1st and October 30th of last year.

He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on July 1 at 1:15pm in Department Four of Tuolumne County Superior Court.