Two St. Joseph High School administrators stared with disbelief Tuesday after jurors in the Superior Court in Santa Maria found them guilty of failing to report an alleged sexual assault by two students against a fellow student.
The jury needed just 24 hours to return the verdicts at about 3 p.m. against former Dean of Students John Walker and Joe Myers, the Orcutt Catholic high school’s principal.
As Judge Edward Bullard thanked jurors for their diligence in the case, the defendants’ supporters in the audience showed equally displeased reactions to convicting Walker and Myers, who have been described throughout the trial as “good guys” by both the defense and prosecution.
Walker was found not guilty of a second count of the same charge, in which prosecutors alleged he did not report a 14-year-old student’s allegations of sexual assault.
Walker and Myers were charged July 12 with failing to report a suspected sexual assault on a 16-year-old student by two other students. They were “mandated reporters” under state law because of their positions of responsibility with the school.
Walker’s wife, Robin, who used to teach at St. Joseph, consoled the now 17-year-old rape victim, who sat sobbing beside her during the reading of the verdict.
A distraught Walker left the courtroom and refused comment to the media before yelling an expletive and exiting the courthouse.
Myers, who did not take the stand during the six-day trial, spoke publicly for the first time after the proceedings.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Myers said. “Everything that I’ve ever done I’ve tried to do well. I respect the decision of the court. I believe what I did was right.”
Myers said he has appreciated the support he’s received and is unsure what his next step will be, since he was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the trial.
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees the Orcutt school, issued a statement following the verdict.
“This case serves as a reminder to all educators to review again the mandated reporting laws of the State of California, which are also enshrined in the policies and procedures of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” the spokesman said. “Now that the verdict is in, the related personnel matters will be evaluated by the Archdiocese with St. Joseph High School.”
The spokesman could not give a time frame for when Myers’ employment would be decided.
“I respect the way this trial was conducted,” Myers said Tuesday. “We were put in a difficult position and we tried to help the young lady. I’m embarrassed that my school has been put through this.”
Myers’ attorney, Michael Scott, said he presented the judge with dozens of letters from people who hold both defendants in the highest regard to be considered for sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 30.
Deputy District Attorney Anne Nudson stood outside the courtroom and thanked jurors for coming back with a conviction.
The father of the now 17-year-old victim spoke out against the prosecution of Walker and Myers, noting that none of the victims’ families wanted this outcome.
“All parents are now left without two heroes,” the father said.
After Walker had several minutes to digest the news, he did comment by calling the trial “a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“I’m pissed off,” Walker said Tuesday. “I think this is completely absurd and wrong. Both these families support me, and yet I just got convicted. That doesn’t make any sense to me. Now we have to pick the pieces up again.”
Walker said the 17-year-old victim, who has been close with his family throughout the trial, now believes Walker’s conviction is her fault.
Walker said he would be heading to the beach to clear his head late Tuesday afternoon, but he was unsure of where to go from here.
“No one’s been in my position before,” Walker said. “What I’m hoping is that the goodness will shine through. I have an unreal amount of support. I’m not a criminal.”
If Walker was put in the same situation again, he said, he didn’t think he would act differently.
“If someone came in and said, ‘Hey, protect my kid,’ I’m going to protect the kid,” he said.
Walker and Myers are expected to be back in court Oct. 30 for sentencing and motions.
The misdemeanor charges against Walker and Myers each carry up to six months in County Jail and a $1,000 fine.