Charges may be reduced for teacher

Robert Chacon

A Superior Court judge said Thursday she is not convinced that a

Crescenta Valley High School teacher committed felonies last year

when he secretly filmed girls dressing in a faculty bathroom.

The 15 felony counts filed against ceramics teacher Roger Gallardo

could be reduced to misdemeanors because the footage he

surreptitiously recorded with cameras hidden in a bathroom might not

depict sexual conduct as defined by California Penal Code, Judge Teri

Schwartz said.

After his arrest in May of 2004, Gallardo, 34, confessed to

recording more than 20 of his female students while they changed from

their school clothes into smocks for his ceramics class. He is facing

more than 20 years in prison, but reclassifying his crimes as

misdemeanors would reduce the amount of jail time he serves.

Each misdemeanor count could carry a penalty of six months to a

year in jail, Deputy District Atty. Catherine Brougham said.

Schwartz also delayed the sentencing trial for Gallardo until Aug.

9.

"I cannot sentence [Gallardo] to state prison under felony

convictions if there is no felony conduct," Schwartz told the

courtroom packed with Gallardo's former students, their parents,

Crescenta Valley faculty members and supporters of Gallardo's family.

The main issue, Schwartz said, is that the footage confiscated

from the camera Gallardo hid inside a bathroom next to his class and

files from his computer might not depict the girls in sexual conduct,

which would be a felony.

She has not seen the footage of the girls, Schwartz said, but from

her understanding, it does not follow the state penal code's

definition of sexual conduct. Schwartz held the sentencing trial over

in order to give her more time to research the issue and to get more

information from Brougham and defense attorney Winston McKesson.

The videos were not viewed in order to protect the privacy of the

girls, McKesson said. Instead, they relied on Gallardo's confession,

letters written by the victims and reports from investigators.

"The judge said that the letters do not make a case for sexual

charges," McKesson said.

Schwartz does not have enough facts to determine whether to

sentence Gallardo on felony charges because there was no preliminary

or jury trial, Brougham said.

"The judge is limited on what facts she knows," she said. "We do

not anticipate [that the charges will be reduced]."

Parents and victims initially expressed anger that Gallardo could

face a reduced sentence. After they met with Brougham outside the

courtroom, however, their concerns seemed to subside.

Schwartz was exercising caution in Thursday's decision, Brougham

told the group.

"She wants to avoid a problem or appeal," she said.

Members of Gallardo's family hoped that Schwartz's hesitation

would result in a leaner prison sentence.

"We are hoping that's what it means," said his mother, Isela

Gallardo.

But parents and victims want closure as soon as possible.

"If this helps keep him from appealing or a retrial then that is

good," said Doug Ward, whose daughter appears in footage taped by

Gallardo.

"We are all tired of coming to court. We just want him to go to

prison."

* ROBERT CHACON covers business and politics. He may be reached at

(818) 637-3239 or by e-mail at robert.chaconlatimes.com.

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