Attorneys for two St. Joseph High School administrators contended Monday that their clients were not guilty of failing to report alleged sexual assaults committed by two students against two fellow students.
Jurors went into deliberation about 2 p.m. in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.
Former Dean of Students John Walker and Joe Myers, the Orcutt Catholic high school’s principal, were charged July 12 with failing to report a suspected sexual assault on a 16-year-old student by two other students.
Walker, who was let go from his position at St. Joseph for undisclosed reasons, also faces a second count of the same charge because prosecutors allege he did not report a 14-year-old student’s allegations of sexual assault.
Judge Edward Bullard gave final instructions to members of the jury, who will decide whether Walker and Myers, who are “mandated reporters” under state law because of their positions of responsibility with the school, failed to immediately report the suspected sexual assault to law enforcement as required, according to District Attorney’s Office prosecutors.
Both defense attorneys disputed that the defendants “knew or reasonably suspected” the sexual assaults.
They also noted that the 16-year-old victim told the school officials that they had “saved her life.”
Attorney Michael Scott reminded jurors that Myers could be convicted only based on evidence concerning the first victim.
“This case is not the slam dunk she would like you to believe,” said Scott, referring to closing arguments Friday by Deputy District Attorney Anne Nudson.
Myers assisted Scott during his closing by placing sections of law onto a projector for the jury.
Scott contended that Myers saw the victim upset, but he did not report to police because he was never given details, and because the family did not want to go to authorities.
“You must, as a matter of law, find Mr. Myers not guilty,” Scott said. “I submit to you that this case never should’ve been prosecuted.”
Walker’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said he could sum up the case in one word: “outrage.”
Two good guys were being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office as some kind of “gotcha” case, he said.
“A man saves a young girl’s life,” Funke-Bilu said. “There’s not that many people that you come across.”
He said while Walker knew about the rape, he didn’t report to the authorities because he was told the victim was not emotionally ready to go to police, and because Walker was told authorities had already been notified.
“You have to define knowing,” Funke-Bilu said. “There was nothing that compelled him to (report) it, because he didn’t know with certainty.”
The jury was expected to deliberate until 4:30 p.m. and then reconvene Tuesday morning if a verdict had not yet been reached.