ADDS QUOTE FROM DA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY
Officials with the District Attorney’s Office dropped a child molestation-annoyance charge against a Legacy Christian Academy teacher Wednesday.
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Carl Astrera, 35, of Panorama City, was in court for a preliminary arraignment, where he was expected to file his plea to the charge, when Laura Knight Jackson, deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County moved to dismiss the charge.
Astrera was arrested around noon Feb. 28 at the private Christian school on the 27600 Block of Dickason Drive in Valencia.
Astrera, who has taught computer science at the school for 14 years, was greeted by a crowd of about 80-90 parents and past and present students of Astrera, who expressed support for Astrera.
“The crowd gathered here in support of Mr. Astrera,” said Rhonda Chobanian, a parent of two children who had Astrera as a teacher. “Everyone has believed from the very beginning that there will be no question that the truth will come out and the charges will be dropped.”
Dozens were wearing shirts with “#TruthWillPrevail” across the chest.
The alleged victim was an 11-year-old boy, according to Sgt. Brian Hudson, an investigator with the Special Victims Bureau of the Sheriff’s Department, who characterized the accusation as “inappropriate touching and behavior that’s inappropriate in any setting,” at the time of the arrest.
“(The charges) weren’t founded, there was no corroborating evidence, and ultimately, the prosecutor believed that she couldn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said R.J. Manuelian, Astrera’s defense attorney.
Legacy Christian Academy officials issued a statement shortly after the arrest, saying they did not believe any student was subject to any risk.
“Based on the information we have obtained, our 14 years of experience with this teacher and even the nature of the allegations, we had and have no reason to believe that any Legacy student was subjected to any risk with this teacher,” according to the statement.
The statement was attributed to Legacy Christian Principal Timothy W. Borruel. It was posted on the school’s website.
Astrera refused to comment outside the courthouse.
“Right now, Mr. Astrera is going to be takng a little hiatus — he does want to go back to Legacy,” Manuelian said. “I’ve instructed him that he has a slew of legal options and that may include a civil rights case or a defamation cause. He just wants to move on with his life right now.”
Knight-Jackson referred media inquiries to the district attorney’s media office.
“After a subsequent investigation, we determined that there was insufficient evidence to move forward on the matter, and therefore we moved to dismiss,” according to Ricardo Sandoval, spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.
“They could always bring the charges again, but I took a look at the police report and, honestly, I have no idea why they filed it in the first place,” Manuelian said. “I was just very surprised.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News