MORAGA -- Three Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School teachers who in 2010 stood in support of a suspected child rapist in court spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday night, saying their former colleague duped them into thinking she was falsely accused.
John Tsubota, reading at a school board meeting a letter he and fellow middle school teachers Jerry Gruen and Patti Forster composed, said they never suspected any of the "horrific crimes" former Joaquin Moraga P.E. teacher Julie Correa perpetrated against Cal assistant women's swim coach Kristen Cunnane over a nearly four-year period, starting when Kristen was 14. Correa was sentenced in December 2011 to eight years in prison for the crimes that occurred during the 1990s.
"Prior to the bail hearing (in the fall of 2010) we had not seen a copy of the criminal complaint or police report. Our information was limited to Julie's statement that she had been falsely accused by Kristen," Tsubota said. "The bail hearing was an eye-opening and mind-boggling experience for us. We were shocked, stunned and deeply saddened by what we heard at the bail hearing from both the district attorney and Julie's attorney.
"We immediately cut off our communication with Julie and her attorney. We never attended any further courtroom hearings."
Cunnane has said seeing some of her favorite middle school teachers attending hearings on Correa's behalf crushed her.
"I made the decision to not watch the video
It is not uncommon for accused molesters, particularly beloved teachers, to receive the kind of early support shown Correa despite serious criminal charges, one national child abuse expert said.
"This just shows you the perpetrator is very, very good at hiding the monster within," said Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation (SESAME). "They don't just groom the victim, they groom the whole community so no one suspects they are doing that in the other part of their life.
"Often times this divides the community," she said. "You have people who support the victim and also people supporting the perpetrator."
In wake of the Penn State University and Jerry Sandusky scandal, Miller's group is pushing legislation in California and other states to add sports coaches and college employees to the "mandated reporter" list. Adults who work with kids are considered mandated reporters who must by law report any suspicion of child abuse to police or Child Protective Services within 36 hours of receiving the allegation.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.