Principal takes Fifth in teacher molestation case
By Brian Charles, Staff Writer, Daily Breeze/L.A. Newspaper Group | http://bit.ly/12okcet
5/10/2013 08:08:39 PM PDT :: A retired Wilmington elementary school principal invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Friday at a court hearing for a former teacher accused of molesting children at the school.
Irene Hinojosa, who stepped down in April 2012 from George De La Torre Elementary, refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether she had served as principal at the school and another related to the school calendar.
"Your honor, I am exercising my Fifth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution," she said.
Long Beach Superior Court Judge Tomson Ong said he understood Hinojosa's reluctance to testify, noting the "vicarious civil and criminal liability for a principal." Prosecutors, however, said they didn't believe Hinojosa was the subject of a criminal investigation.
Prosecutors called Hinojosa to the witness stand during the preliminary hearing for Robert Pimentel, the former teacher accused of molesting 11 children during the 2011-12 school year.
Deputy District Attorney Janis Johnson said the questions were intended to lay the foundation for follow-up questions that would have established whether Hinojosa had previously warned Pimentel about inappropriate touching of students. Johnson had hoped to establish that Hinojosa authored a report in which she said the former teacher was on medication that heightened his sex drive.
Pimentel's attorney said he believes the comments about medication and his client's sex drive in Hinojosa's report were actually her documenting a joke made by the teacher.
"It started out as a joke," defense attorney Joseph Yanny said outside the courtroom. "She was obligated to take down the joke. "
In earlier reports, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy said his office determined that Hinojosa knew of misconduct allegations made against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008, but failed to report them to the district.
In court Friday, the prosecution submitted three letters Hinojosa wrote to Pimentel regarding the inappropriate touching of students. In one letter, Hinojosa is said to have admonished him to "keep his hands off students. "
Pimentel and Hinojosa announced their resignations from the LAUSD on the same day.
The preliminary hearing, which will determine whether Pimentel must stand trial, began Thursday. But Friday proved to be the most dramatic day in the case, with Hinojosa's refusal to answer questions and calls for a federal investigation by a lawyer representing five alleged victims.
Attorney John Manly, who represents five of the girls listed as victims in the case and an additional eight girls who claim to have also been abused, said outside court that it's time for the federal government to step in on the grounds that LAUSD's actions may constitute a civil rights violation.
"You have a white man molesting minority children," Manly said. "You need the U.S. Attorney's Office to come in and investigate this district. "
One of Pimentel's accusers, identified in court as Jane Doe No. 7, testified Friday that a classmate told her she could earn $100 for testifying against Pimentel.
Six girls who testified Friday alleged that Pimentel touched them in ways that made them feel "weird" and uncomfortable. They said he touched them on their "things," buttocks and lower back.
However, the testimony didn't include allegations of the type of groping made Thursday, when one victim claimed Pimentel touched her under her clothes.
Additionally, a niece of Pimentel - the 12th accuser in the case - testified Thursday that he guided her hand to his penis. She said her uncle molested her more than a dozen times at his home in Newport Beach and in Rosemead and Covina. The family of Pimentel's niece filed criminal complaints against him, but the Orange County District Attorney's Office declined to pursue charges.
Outside court Friday, Yanny asked, "What have you heard from any of these girls - outside of the niece, and we can deal with that separately - that rises to the level of a crime?
LAUSD letters warned Wilmington teacher to stop touching students
By Brian Charles, Staff Writer, Staff Writer, Daily Breeze/L.A. Newspaper Group | http://bit.ly/19bKtPn
5/10/2013 04:35:57 PM PDT :: A former Wilmington teacher accused of molesting 11 students was warned in writing by his elementary school principal to "keep his hands off students," a prosecutor said in court Friday.
That admonishment was contained in one of three letters to teacher Robert Pimentel from former Los Angeles Unified School District Principal Irene Hinojosa, who retired in April 2012 from George De La Torre Elementary School, where the alleged molestations occurred.
Prosecutors submitted the letters into evidence Friday during the second day of a preliminary hearing for Pimentel, who is accused of molesting the 11 girls at De La Torre during the 2011-12 school year. Additionally, he is charged with molesting a niece over the course of 10 years.
As was the case in the first day of the preliminary hearing, one of Pimentel's victims took the stand Friday and offered emotionally charged testimony in which she gave a detailed description of the alleged abuse.
"He slapped me on my bottom," testified the girl, identified as Jane Doe No. 3.
The slap on the butt and occasions where she alleges Pimentel caressed her thigh made the 10-year-old girl feel unsettled in the teacher's presence, she said.
"I was uncomfortable, because it wasn't the right thing," the girl testified.
And like he did on Thursday, Pimentel's attorney, Joseph Yanny, attempted to discredit the girl's testimony.
He accused Jane Doe No. 3 of accepting $100 in exchange for telling the authorities she was molested by Pimentel.
The girl denied ever being offered money. And when pressed by the court, Yanny only said that his private investigator had reason to believe the girls had been paid.
The preliminary hearing is expected to continue into Monday.
Attorneys For Teacher Accused Of Sexual Assault Say Money Is Driving Victims’ Allegations
CBS2 News | http://cbsloc.al/15yGd02
May 10, 2013 7:58 PM | LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — Attorneys for the now-retired 4th grade teacher accused of sexually assaulting fifteen students say money is driving the victims’ allegations.
Robert Pimentel, who taught at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington, appeared at a preliminary hearing Friday.
Randy Paige, reporting for CBS2, said cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.
Several alleged victims have already testified. And the defense is preparing a counterattack against allegations the victims are trying to shake Pimentel down for money.
Most of the alleged victims say Pimentel touched them inappropriately on the outside of their clothing. One alleged victim said the teacher slid his hand down her back, inside her shirt, and went down to the waistband of her pants.
Under cross examination Friday, Joseph Yanny, one of Pimentel’s attorney’s asked an 11-year-old girl if she was paid $100 to make up the allegations. Her reply was “no.”
Outside the courthouse, Yanny told Paige about the case, “It’s a bunch of … falsities … intended to make a profit at the expense of a very innocent man.”
He said the case was being fueled by parents looking to sue the LA Unified School District over the alleged abuse. “You’ve got a cadre of very close friends, as the evidence involved you will see, are out to make some money. They’re all represented by private counsel who are just laying in the background.”
John Manly, an attorney for five of the alleged victims, said “That whole defense crawled out from under a rock and is being put on by somebody with no conscience.”
Manly added, “These little girls told their parents and the police before they ever contacted a lawyer. When the facts aren’t on your side [like Pimintel's] you just have to make stuff up. And Mr. Yanny is simply making this up.”
In order to get the case to trial, prosecutors have to convince a judge that it’s possible Pimentel committed the alleged abuse.
If the case goes to trial, of course, the prosecution will have to convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.