SAN FRANCISCO -- A state appeals court has upheld a former Moraga middle school teacher's conviction for sexually abusing a teenage girl in the 1990s, a case that has led to revelations of past mandated reporting failures in the Moraga School District, a lawsuit and multiple legal claims.
The First Appellate District in San Francisco found no errors were made when former Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School teacher Julie Gay Correa was prosecuted for sexually abusing Kristen Cunnane over a four-year period beginning in 1996, when Cunnane was 14. Cunnane, now a 30-year-old Walnut Creek resident and an assistant swim coach at UC Berkeley, chose to be publicly identified as Correa's victim after she first reported the abuse in 2010.
Correa, 44, was pending trial on 28 felony charges last year when she pleaded no contest to three counts of lewd acts on a child and one count of forcible sexual penetration in exchange for an eight-year prison sentence.
Correa waived her right to appeal the conviction as part of her plea deal with the state Attorney General's Office. She lodged an appeal anyway, arguing her attorney had advised her to waive her rights without discussing the pros and cons of doing so with her.
Correa believes her sentence was affected by the fact Cunnane's husband is a Contra Costa County prosecutor, and she wished she would have made other legal challenges before changing her plea, according to the opinion handed down by the state court.
This newspaper's investigation into the Correa case revealed in May that Correa was among the state mandated reporters at Joaquin Moraga in the 1990s who failed to act when Cunnane and other female students reported being molested or otherwise sexually harassed at the school by science teacher Daniel Witters.
Witters is suspected to have molested the girls after a high school student reported in 1994 that she had been sexually molested by Witters when she was an eighth-grader. Cunnane is suing the district for unspecified damages for failing to act on the student's initial complaint, arguing that administrators could have saved her and others from being victimized.
Three other victims of Witters have filed claims against the district -- one is asking for $10 million, and the other two are asking for $15 million each.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.