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Cheerleaders’ ‘nightmare’: Newport Beach doctor allegedly used an alias to sext teens

Cheerleaders’ ‘nightmare’: Newport Beach doctor allegedly used an alias to sext teens
David Lee Haller appears in court Thursday. (KTLA)

A Newport Beach doctor accused of sending “sexually motivated” messages to two Newport Harbor High School cheerleaders was remanded to custody Thursday after new allegations surfaced.

David Lee Haller, 52, was charged June 19 with two misdemeanor counts of child annoyance on allegations of sending sexually charged messages via social media while using aliases.

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In one message, authorities said, a cheerleader was told “he saw her bend over at the game and that he felt guilty watching her.”

Haller pleaded not guilty Sept. 4. If convicted, he could face a maximum of two years in Orange County Jail, according to prosecutors.

Haller had been free on his own recognizance but was remanded Thursday with bail set at $50,000. He is scheduled to appear in court March 5.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Chrisopoulos told Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones on Thursday that prosecutors had become aware that Haller traveled to Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 19 for a collegiate cheer competition and contacted a Cal State Long Beach student using a pattern similar to the other cases.

The cheerleader made coaches aware of the messages, and they identified Haller and recorded video of him at the event before law enforcement evicted the man from the premises, Chrisopoulos said.

“This is the sort of conduct the defendant was charged of [earlier],” Chrisopoulos said.

Jones ordered Haller not to attend any youth or collegiate cheer or dance events or practices. He also ordered him to stay away from middle- and high-school campuses and prohibited him from attending any events at UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach or Cal State Fullerton.

Haller’s attorney Alan Castillo asked that the public “not to rush to judgment.”

“The law presumes that he is innocent,” Castillo said Thursday.

At the time he was charged, Haller was listed as a family doctor at Kaiser Permanente’s Alton/Sand Canyon medical offices in Irvine, according to the facility’s website. The company said in a June statement that Haller was put on leave.

Haller, who is married with two elementary-school-age children, has been a licensed physician since January 1995. He has no record of disciplinary actions, according to California Medical Board records.

Officer Adam Dudash, a school resource officer at Newport Harbor High, launched an investigation in November 2017 after the cheer team coach told him several cheerleaders were being followed on social media by someone who had made suspicious online contact with them, including comments about cheer activities the person apparently had seen.

The case has been a “nightmare for the whole team,” said Newport Harbor cheer coach Kristin Higman, who has overseen the pep squad and cheer programs at Ensign and the high school for more than 10 years.

Higman said the alleged contact from Haller added a “whole other concern” in regard to her students’ safety.

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The students have been thoroughly instructed on what to look out for online and things to consider before accepting messages from or conversing with people they don’t know, Higman said.

It is “impacting their lives, impacting their spirit and impacting the community,” Higman said.

Sclafani writes for Times Community News.

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