Ex-Marlborough School teacher accused of sex abuse pleads not guilty

Former Marlborough School teacher accused of sexually abusing a student pleads not guilty

A former English teacher at Marlborough School in Los Angeles accused of felony sex crimes involving a former student made his first court appearance Wednesday, pleading not guilty to the charges.

Joseph Thomas Koetters, 47, who was arrested earlier this month, faces two counts each of oral copulation and penetration with a foreign object involving someone under 18, according to the district attorney's office.

Koetters pleaded not guilty on all charges and is free on $140,000 bail.

Koetters said little during his appearance. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sergio C. Tapia II ordered that Koetters remain at least 100 yards away from the alleged victim, noting that she was listed as “Jane Doe” in the criminal complaint. Tapia said that he was told that Koetters knew the real name of the alleged victim. 

When asked by the judge if that was so, Koetters replied “Yes, sir.”

After leaving the downtown Los Angeles courtroom, Koetters and his attorney, Leonard Levine, declined to comment.

David M. Ring, an attorney who represents the former student, said his client is relieved that the criminal case is underway.

“She hopes that Mr. Koetters won’t prolong it and do the right thing and accept his punishment,” he said.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 26.

Koetters, who worked at the all-girls private school in Hancock Park for more than a decade, allegedly initiated a yearlong sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student beginning in 2000, according to a statement from the district attorney’s office.

The alleged victim came forward to police in July after sexual harassment allegations against Koetters surfaced in an essay by another former Marlborough student that was published in the online magazine xoJane last year. The story was first reported in 2014 by BuzzFeed.

Ring previously told the Los Angeles Times that his client became pregnant by the teacher and later had a miscarriage. Ring, who plans to file a civil suit against Koetters and the school, said his client's story was the subject of a recent Vanity Fair article.

Koetters worked at Marlborough for more than a decade and then briefly at Polytechnic School in Pasadena.

Last year, a team commissioned by Marlborough's board investigated allegations against Koetters and concluded that there existed a "pattern of misconduct" by the teacher and "mistakes in judgment" by top school officials. In November, the school's chief administrator announced that she would step down.

In a statement following Koetters' arrest, school officials said their top priorities are the safety and welfare of students.

“Marlborough School expresses its deep sympathy for the victims of the sexual misconduct that has come to light,” the statement said.

Koetters faces up to five years in state prison if convicted on all charges, according to the district attorney’s office.

For news on California civil courts, follow @sjceasar on Twitter.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


11:48 a.m.: This article was updated to include details from Wednesday's court hearing and Joseph Thomas Koetters' not guilty plea.

The first version of this article was published at 5:40 a.m.