Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 1:03 am | Fair 45º


Local News

Attorneys Assert St. Joseph Officials Are Not Guilty

Jurors begin deliberations in failure-to-report-rape case against principal, former dean at Orcutt school

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.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >