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Jury Acquits Santa Ana Teacher of Child-Molestation Charges

Times Staff Writer

A Santa Ana schoolteacher charged with 16 counts of child molestation was acquitted Tuesday by a jury in Westminster after less than two hours of deliberations.

Paul Hernandez, 33, who taught third grade and later fifth grade at Fremont Elementary School, claimed he was the victim of a Santa Ana YMCA official’s mistaken impression when he saw the teacher in a shower room with a young boy.

“Jurors told me that it took them five minutes to decide that the D.A.'s case was a pile of garbage, but they decided to wait until after coffee was served before coming back out,” said Paul J. Wallin, Hernandez’s attorney.

Testimony by Boy

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The YMCA official had told police he saw Hernandez lathering the boy and that both of them appeared to be sexually stimulated. The boy, one of Hernandez’s students, also testified that Hernandez molested him in the sauna after others from the class had left.

But Wallin brought on others from the class who said that everyone always left the sauna with Hernandez at the same time, including the alleged victim. Hernandez testified he never touched the boy and was never even alone with him in the sauna.

Jurors told the lawyers afterward they did not believe the boy in light of testimony from the other witnesses from the sauna.

Hernandez was charged with felony counts of child molestation involving that youngster, and 11 other misdemeanor counts of fondling other young students in his class while weighing them on the scales at the YMCA.

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Hernandez often took students to the YMCA or on other outings away from the school. He admitted sometimes picking up students but said he never intentionally touched any of them sexually.

Jurors’ Well-Wishes

All 12 of the jurors came up to Hernandez afterwards and either shook his hand or hugged him.


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