|For Immediate Release
February 27th, 2002
|Contact:||DDA Matt Murphy
Elementary School Teacher Guilty of Molesting Students
SANTA ANA — An elementary school teacher was convicted today of nine molestation counts against three of his students.
The Superior Court jury deliberated just one day before returning a verdict of guilty on nine counts and acquitting Jason Abhyankar, 28, of Huntington Beach, on one molestation charge against a fourth student. All of the victims were boys between the ages of 9 and 11 who were molested in the defendant’s classroom during school hours. The crimes occurred between September 1998 and January 2000 at Village View Elementary School in Huntington Beach and Portola Hills Elementary School in Saddleback Valley.
The courtroom was packed with friends and family members of the victims. Many sobbed as the verdicts were read. Abhyankar will return to court on March 8 to set a sentencing date.
During the five-week trial, the prosecution presented evidence that school officials in Huntington Beach had received numerous complaints from parents and other teachers about suspicious activity between the defendant and some of his male students. He was eventually fired. However, despite continued complaints the school principal wrote a letter of recommendation praising the defendant, which allowed him to gain employment by Portola Hills for the 1999/2000 school year. Two boys at that school reported being molested which launched a police investigation.
Following closing arguments, Judge Carla Singer took the unusual step of taking Abhyankar into custody without bail because he posed a flight risk. Abhyankar had posted $150,000 bail and had family in Canada.
“The case against Mr. Abhyankar is, in this court’s view, overwhelming,” Singer told the defendant outside the presence of the jury. Singer also criticized Abhyankar’s testimony in court and called him “self absorbed and egocentric.”