Published on May 16th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman0
Former Wilmington teacher ordered to stand trial for molestation
A former teacher accused of molesting students at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington was ordered to stand trial Monday on 14 of the 16 counts against him.
Long Beach Superior Court Judge Tomson Ong waved aside defense claims that the alleged victims were motivated only by money from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where teacher Robert Pimentel was employed until he retired in April 2012.
After a three-day preliminary hearing, Ong dismissed two counts of molestation brought by two girls who recanted their earlier statements, according to Pimentel’s attorney, Joseph Yanny.
Pimentel now is accused of molesting nine girls at De La Torre during the 2011-12 school year and his niece during a period from 2002 to 2004. The abuse allegedly began when the niece was 6 years old. Pimentel remains in jail on $14 million bail and has been ordered to appear May 28 for arraignment before Judge Arthur Jean.
Yanny implored the judge to dismiss all counts Monday, claiming the touching described by the victims was neither criminal nor intimate.
“I pray that we haven’t reached a time when a teacher can’t give students a hug to give them praise,” he said.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Pimentel used his popularity and charm to molest the girls. In a letter read in court by Deputy District Attorney Lee Cernok, Pimentel’s former supervisor, retired Principal Irene Hinojosa, told him: “You are taking advantage of these little girls who don’t know how to tell you no.”
Hinojosa was called to testify on Friday, but invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination immediately after taking the stand.
In closing comments Monday, Cernok said her office believes the touching “was of an intimate nature” and that the judge had to “look at the evidence as a whole.”
During the preliminary hearing, girls alleged that Pimentel touched them on their buttocks, thighs and waist. One girl accused him of touching her underneath her clothes and his niece testified that a naked Pimentel once guided her hand to his penis.
On Monday, Yanny continued to argue that the victims, their families, a battery of attorneys and the District Attorney’s Office colluded to frame the retired teacher. A conviction, he said, would pave the way for a payday for the families, like the $30 million settlement in the recent Miramonte Elementary School case.
“I guess the real estate market is down so people are turning to sex crimes in their practice,” Yanny said.
Some of the Pimentel’s alleged victims already have joined in filing a lawsuit against the LAUSD.
During Monday’s court session, Yanny claimed that a woman working for a law firm representing some of the alleged victims has been fishing for more potential victims. The lawyer called her a “fixer.”
Ong admonished the defense attorney for suggesting that civil lawsuits influence criminal cases and reminded Yanny that the preliminary hearing was held solely to establish whether there was enough evidence to proceed with a criminal trial.
“The fact that there is a civil lawsuit does not go to the elements of the case,” Ong said. “That line of questioning does not affect the elements of the case. “
Ronald Labriola, an attorney with the Senators Law Firm – which has not yet sued the LAUSD over Pimentel – called Yanny’s claims “outrageous.”
“Our firm became aware of the litigation (involving other alleged victims) after Mr. Pimentel was arrested,” Labriola said outside court. “This is a typical defense attorney tactic of throwing as much mud as possible.”
Source: dailybreeze.com “Former Wilmington teacher ordered to stand trial for molestation,” May 16, 2013.