A story about a former Woodside Elementary principal who won't face charges in a teacher molestation case incorrectly reported the day of the teacher's arrest. Joseph Martin, who faces 150 child molestation counts involving 14 Woodside students, was placed on administrative leave in April 2013 and arrested in June.
CONCORD -- Contra Costa prosecutors said Friday they will not file criminal charges against a former Woodside Elementary School principal for how she responded to the conduct of teacher Joseph Martin, who faces 150 child molestation counts involving 14 Woodside students.
After a Concord police investigation of Jennifer Sachs, who oversaw Martin from 2004 to 2006, the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office determined the statute of limitations had expired on a misdemeanor failure to report charge.
In 2006, Sachs received a barrage of inappropriate behavior complaints against Martin, which led to an internal Mt. Diablo school district report concluding "potential child abuse" by the teacher. Neither Sachs nor other district employees reported any of the allegations to police or to Child Protective Services, as required under state law when school workers receive "reasonable suspicion" of abuse. Failure to report is a misdemeanor that can lead to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Prosecutors do not expect to file charges against any other district employees, also due to statute of limitations concerns, said senior deputy district attorney Nancy Georgiou, who heads Contra Costa's sexual assault unit. An e-mail to Sachs Friday was not immediately returned.
Martin, who was placed on leave in April 2013 and arrested in June, remains in the County Jail in Martinez awaiting trial. More than a dozen alleged victims and their families have filed lawsuits against Martin and numerous school district employees who they claim failed to report abuse allegations in a timely manner. That failure, they contend, led to additional abuse.
Prosecutors reviewed the Police Department report, along with "memorandums of investigations and conferences" by the district in 2006, before making their decision, according to a statement from the District Attorney's Office.
"Prosecution for a misdemeanor offense must begin within one year of the failure to report, per the statute of limitations," according to the statement, which noted the alleged reporting failures occurred in 2006.
The office continues to say the one-year limit can only be delayed if it can be proved Sachs knew of abuse, not just had suspicions of it, per the penal code. Prosecutors did not find that.
"In this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove Ms. Sachs intentionally knew, or harbored reasonable suspicion, of abuse by Mr. Martin of his students in 2006," the District Attorney's Office statement said.
On Thursday, District Attorney Mark Peterson met with numerous Contra Costa school district superintendents to discuss comprehensive training of school employees on "mandated reporter" requirements. Peterson hopes to work with law enforcement agencies and school officials to develop a "uniform, effective training program" for the county, according to the statement.
An attorney representing alleged victims of Martin said his civil case will proceed despite Friday's announcement.
"The evidence we have suggests the district and its employees failed to report and we believe that will be found in a civil case where the burden is lower," attorney Marc Lewis said.
In 2006, a teacher told Sachs -- the daughter of former interim Mt. Diablo Superintendent John Bernard -- that she walked in on Martin and a 12- or 13-year-old boy at about 6:30 p.m. in his classroom behind a closed door; both had their shoes off, according to the police report. The teacher was the first of four who alerted Sachs, now with the Pittsburg school district, to inappropriate behavior involving Martin, according to police. Those reports led to an internal investigation of Martin by an outside attorney; this newspaper has sued the Mt. Diablo district for access to that 2006 report.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.