I tickle students, and I am trying to stop


The trial of a former first-grade teacher accused of molesting four female students got under way late Tuesday afternoon, and the defense team made one thing clear: The jury is going to be there awhile.

“This man’s freedom is enough to inconvenience you. You will be here into next week,” defense attorney Reagan Wynn promised the panel of six men and six women.

Jose “Joe” David Soliz, 29, who taught at Worth Heights Elementary School, is on trial in state District Judge Scott Wisch’s court. He is accused of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, punishable by up to life in prison, and three counts of indecency-fondling, each punishable by up to 20 years.

During her opening statement, prosecutor Rebecca McIntire, who is teaming with Bill Vassar to try Soliz, told jurors that she was “not going to sugarcoat it.”

“This is a very important case,” she said. “It has to do with our children — and our children being victims.”

McIntire said four girls who came from “simple, unsophisticated” families would testify that they were “tickled” by Soliz. They were so young that they didn’t realize his actions were sexual and criminal, she said.

“This case is not about tickling,” McIntire said. “This case is about child molestation.”

McIntire said that the allegations surfaced April 3, 2006, when a girl was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center after telling her mother that it hurt to use the restroom. The child, a first-grader, later said that Soliz touched her “in between” while tickling her.

The second accuser, also a first-grader, surfaced a few days later when investigators questioned Soliz’s class. The girl told officials that Soliz tickled her under her shirt on the breast in the classroom.

On April 8, 2006, McIntire said, the Star-Telegram ran an article about Soliz’s arrest, prompting a third accuser to come forward. The girl, a fifth-grader who was in an after-school program, also said Soliz tickled her under her shirt in the classroom.

The fourth accuser made allegations against Soliz in July when she learned that prosecutors, preparing for trial, wanted to talk to her about her former teacher. That child also said that Soliz tickled her on her breast in the classroom, McIntire said.

McIntire told jurors that the only thing the girls had in common was their teacher and that they had no motive to lie.

Wynn, who is teaming with Jeff Kearney to represent Soliz, had a different view.

“An innocent man is sitting right over there,” Wynn said during his opening statement after McIntire took her seat. “And I don’t mean presumed innocent. I mean he did not do these things.”

Wynn told the jury that Soliz was a devoted educator who chose to teach struggling kids at a “bad school in a bad neighborhood.”

He said that the first accuser, whom Soliz made repeat first grade, “flat-out lied” and that hysteria over a “child molester” in the school soon followed. He said investigators interviewed the children in such a way that they would eventually tell them what they wanted to hear.

Furthermore, Wynn said, the girl who came forward after the article ran had at the time recently been taken out of a psychiatric hospital and had a “psychotic aversion” to going to school and would do anything not to go back. The fourth girl, Wynn said, had been questioned 16 months earlier but never said anything.

After opening statements, Bobby Whiteside, assistant director of special investigations for the Fort Worth school district, testified that when he first confronted Soliz with accusations in April 2006, Soliz seemed remorseful and acknowledged that he tickled students but denied that it was sexual.

“He said, ‘I tickle students, and I am trying to stop. I have never tickled them maliciously,'” Whiteside said.

MELODY McDONALD

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

I tickle students, and I am trying to stop


The trial of a former first-grade teacher accused of molesting four female students got under way late Tuesday afternoon, and the defense team made one thing clear: The jury is going to be there awhile.

“This man’s freedom is enough to inconvenience you. You will be here into next week,” defense attorney Reagan Wynn promised the panel of six men and six women.

Jose “Joe” David Soliz, 29, who taught at Worth Heights Elementary School, is on trial in state District Judge Scott Wisch’s court. He is accused of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, punishable by up to life in prison, and three counts of indecency-fondling, each punishable by up to 20 years.

During her opening statement, prosecutor Rebecca McIntire, who is teaming with Bill Vassar to try Soliz, told jurors that she was “not going to sugarcoat it.”

“This is a very important case,” she said. “It has to do with our children — and our children being victims.”

McIntire said four girls who came from “simple, unsophisticated” families would testify that they were “tickled” by Soliz. They were so young that they didn’t realize his actions were sexual and criminal, she said.

“This case is not about tickling,” McIntire said. “This case is about child molestation.”

McIntire said that the allegations surfaced April 3, 2006, when a girl was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center after telling her mother that it hurt to use the restroom. The child, a first-grader, later said that Soliz touched her “in between” while tickling her.

The second accuser, also a first-grader, surfaced a few days later when investigators questioned Soliz’s class. The girl told officials that Soliz tickled her under her shirt on the breast in the classroom.

On April 8, 2006, McIntire said, the Star-Telegram ran an article about Soliz’s arrest, prompting a third accuser to come forward. The girl, a fifth-grader who was in an after-school program, also said Soliz tickled her under her shirt in the classroom.

The fourth accuser made allegations against Soliz in July when she learned that prosecutors, preparing for trial, wanted to talk to her about her former teacher. That child also said that Soliz tickled her on her breast in the classroom, McIntire said.

McIntire told jurors that the only thing the girls had in common was their teacher and that they had no motive to lie.

Wynn, who is teaming with Jeff Kearney to represent Soliz, had a different view.

“An innocent man is sitting right over there,” Wynn said during his opening statement after McIntire took her seat. “And I don’t mean presumed innocent. I mean he did not do these things.”

Wynn told the jury that Soliz was a devoted educator who chose to teach struggling kids at a “bad school in a bad neighborhood.”

He said that the first accuser, whom Soliz made repeat first grade, “flat-out lied” and that hysteria over a “child molester” in the school soon followed. He said investigators interviewed the children in such a way that they would eventually tell them what they wanted to hear.

Furthermore, Wynn said, the girl who came forward after the article ran had at the time recently been taken out of a psychiatric hospital and had a “psychotic aversion” to going to school and would do anything not to go back. The fourth girl, Wynn said, had been questioned 16 months earlier but never said anything.

After opening statements, Bobby Whiteside, assistant director of special investigations for the Fort Worth school district, testified that when he first confronted Soliz with accusations in April 2006, Soliz seemed remorseful and acknowledged that he tickled students but denied that it was sexual.

“He said, ‘I tickle students, and I am trying to stop. I have never tickled them maliciously,'” Whiteside said.

MELODY McDONALD

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

I tickle students, and I am trying to stop


The trial of a former first-grade teacher accused of molesting four female students got under way late Tuesday afternoon, and the defense team made one thing clear: The jury is going to be there awhile.

“This man’s freedom is enough to inconvenience you. You will be here into next week,” defense attorney Reagan Wynn promised the panel of six men and six women.

Jose “Joe” David Soliz, 29, who taught at Worth Heights Elementary School, is on trial in state District Judge Scott Wisch’s court. He is accused of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, punishable by up to life in prison, and three counts of indecency-fondling, each punishable by up to 20 years.

During her opening statement, prosecutor Rebecca McIntire, who is teaming with Bill Vassar to try Soliz, told jurors that she was “not going to sugarcoat it.”

“This is a very important case,” she said. “It has to do with our children — and our children being victims.”

McIntire said four girls who came from “simple, unsophisticated” families would testify that they were “tickled” by Soliz. They were so young that they didn’t realize his actions were sexual and criminal, she said.

“This case is not about tickling,” McIntire said. “This case is about child molestation.”

McIntire said that the allegations surfaced April 3, 2006, when a girl was taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center after telling her mother that it hurt to use the restroom. The child, a first-grader, later said that Soliz touched her “in between” while tickling her.

The second accuser, also a first-grader, surfaced a few days later when investigators questioned Soliz’s class. The girl told officials that Soliz tickled her under her shirt on the breast in the classroom.

On April 8, 2006, McIntire said, the Star-Telegram ran an article about Soliz’s arrest, prompting a third accuser to come forward. The girl, a fifth-grader who was in an after-school program, also said Soliz tickled her under her shirt in the classroom.

The fourth accuser made allegations against Soliz in July when she learned that prosecutors, preparing for trial, wanted to talk to her about her former teacher. That child also said that Soliz tickled her on her breast in the classroom, McIntire said.

McIntire told jurors that the only thing the girls had in common was their teacher and that they had no motive to lie.

Wynn, who is teaming with Jeff Kearney to represent Soliz, had a different view.

“An innocent man is sitting right over there,” Wynn said during his opening statement after McIntire took her seat. “And I don’t mean presumed innocent. I mean he did not do these things.”

Wynn told the jury that Soliz was a devoted educator who chose to teach struggling kids at a “bad school in a bad neighborhood.”

He said that the first accuser, whom Soliz made repeat first grade, “flat-out lied” and that hysteria over a “child molester” in the school soon followed. He said investigators interviewed the children in such a way that they would eventually tell them what they wanted to hear.

Furthermore, Wynn said, the girl who came forward after the article ran had at the time recently been taken out of a psychiatric hospital and had a “psychotic aversion” to going to school and would do anything not to go back. The fourth girl, Wynn said, had been questioned 16 months earlier but never said anything.

After opening statements, Bobby Whiteside, assistant director of special investigations for the Fort Worth school district, testified that when he first confronted Soliz with accusations in April 2006, Soliz seemed remorseful and acknowledged that he tickled students but denied that it was sexual.

“He said, ‘I tickle students, and I am trying to stop. I have never tickled them maliciously,'” Whiteside said.

MELODY McDONALD

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 6:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pedophile gets 25 years under ‘Jessica’s Law’

A 62-year-old Sterling Heights man will serve at least 25 years in prison after he lost his argument against a new law that requires such a sentence for molesting a 7-year-old girl. Donald E. Fitzpatrick received a 25- to 40-year prison sentence Wednesday under “Jessica’s Law,” a law that took effect in September 2006 to more harshly punish pedophiles.

He is the first defendant in Macomb County and may be the first in the state to be sentenced under the law, part of which requires a 25-year mandatory penalty to an adult who sexually assaults a child under 13.

If the new law was not in effect, sentencing guidelines would have showed a range of nine to 15 years in prison, although circuit Judge Matthew Switalski could have exceeded guidelines if he found “substantial and compelling reasons.”

One of Fitzpatrick’s attorneys, John Royal, argued that the law is unconstitutional, but Switalski of Macomb County Circuit Court disagreed. He compared the mandatory minimum sentence to habitual offender status and third-time drunken driving cases that elevate to felonies, in which a jury sorts out the facts and the judge determines the sentence.

Switalski said little to Fitzpatrick before sentencing him.

“Things speak for themselves,” Switalski said.

A jury in August found Fitzpatrick guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for digitally penetrating the girl about Sept. 30, 2006, in the living room of his Takoma Drive home. The girl is the granddaughter of a longtime female companion. Two other girls and three adults testified of sexual abuse at Fitzpatrick’s hands as “prior acts” evidence.

The jury acquitted him on a second count of the same charge.

Assistant Macomb prosecutor Rebecca Oster called Fitzpatrick’s actions a “prime example of predatory behavior.” Fitzpatrick gained the trust of victims by ingratiating himself in his girlfriend’s family by buying little girls expensive gifts, including a horse for one of them, she said.

“He has special interest in children aged 7 to 10,” Oster told the judge. “He acts out when he thinks he can get away with it. He used his position of trust as a trusting grandfather figure.”

The victim’s mother said no one in the family suspected the abuse until the first girl revealed it, followed by the others.

“If I would’ve known (about the abuse), he would not be here today,” the woman said. “He was accepted by the entire family as a grandfather.”

She said Fitzpatrick was at the hospital for the birth of her children, including the victim.

“He held them the day they were born,” she said.

The victim’s mother said Fitzpatrick’s assault has negatively affected her daughter, now 8, who is receiving counseling.

“She cries all the time and doesn’t want to be a little kid,” she said. “We’re told she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome.”

A letter by the victim, now 8, was read in court.

“I don’t want him to do this to anyone else,” her letter said. “I want him to stay in jail until he dies.”

During arguments prior to the judge issuing the sentence, defense attorney Royal also argued that it was not established “on the record” that Fitzpatrick is older than age 17, a requirement under Jessica’s Law.

Judge Switalski asked Fitzpatrick his age, at which point Royal told him not to reply. Oster intervened and noted that Fitzpatrick was born Oct. 20, 1944.

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Abuse did not merit Leniency

A judge sentenced a Ridgefield businessman on Tuesday to eight years, two months in prison for molesting two family members.

Don W. Winton, 53, has been in the Clark County Jail since pleading guilty July 5 to two counts of first-degree child molestation and one count of third-degree child molestation.

He will be transferred to prison Nov. 23.

Defense attorney Tom Phelan argued that Winton should be sentenced to a year in the Clark County Jail and then outpatient therapy for sexual deviants under the state’s Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative.

“Mr. Winton is an ideal SSOSA candidate,” Phelan said, citing three psychologists who said Winton has done well so far in therapy and is considered a low risk to reoffend.

Superior Court Judge Robert Harris said that while Winton may qualify for SSOSA, the abuse he subjected two young girls to did not merit leniency. Harris sided with Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kim Farr, who said a SSOSA sentence would be “a pat on the wrist” for the multiple times Winton abused the girls and the emotional scars he has left.

The abuse came to light a year ago, when one girl wrote about it in a notebook discovered by a teacher.

One victim told Harris that Winton used to take her on overnight trips for his import antiques business and abuse her in hotel rooms.

Both victims said they were in elementary school when the abuse began.

One victim, now 21, wrote in her statement, which was read Tuesday in court by a family friend, that she remembers as a young girl watching her mother leave for night classes, hoping she would turn around so she wouldn’t be left with Winton.

The victim wrote that she wanted Winton to be humiliated and live in fear in prison so he can begin to understand how she felt all those nights when he came into her bedroom.

The sentence is a minimum term; once that term is complete, Winton could still be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison by the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board.

Before his arrest, Winton was known as a vocal critic of former Ridgefield School Superintendent Mary Vagner. Winton helped defeat a $56 million bond measure in 2005 by arguing that Vagner’s administration did not put students’ needs first.

Stephanie Rice
Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Gary Glitter misses out on amnesty

VIETNAMESE President Nguyen Minh Triet has given amnesty to more than 8000 prisoners but British pop singer Gary Glitter, jailed for child molestation, was not on the list, officials said today.

A total of 8018 prisoners will be freed from prison including 13 foreigners and 48 others will not be placed behind bars in honour of the communist country’s National Day.

Vice minister for public security Le The Tiem said 11 of those freed had been convicted for violating national security – a charge usually filed against political dissidents.

But an amnesty request by Glitter – the disgraced 1970s pop star who was sentenced to three years in jail in March 2006 for committing obscene acts with two girls, then aged 11 and 12, in southern Vietnam – was denied as expected.

In February, Glitter received a three-month term reduction to mark the traditional Tet lunar new year, moving his official release date forward to August 2008.

news.com.au

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 5:34 am  Leave a Comment  

Gary Glitter misses out on amnesty

VIETNAMESE President Nguyen Minh Triet has given amnesty to more than 8000 prisoners but British pop singer Gary Glitter, jailed for child molestation, was not on the list, officials said today.

A total of 8018 prisoners will be freed from prison including 13 foreigners and 48 others will not be placed behind bars in honour of the communist country’s National Day.

Vice minister for public security Le The Tiem said 11 of those freed had been convicted for violating national security – a charge usually filed against political dissidents.

But an amnesty request by Glitter – the disgraced 1970s pop star who was sentenced to three years in jail in March 2006 for committing obscene acts with two girls, then aged 11 and 12, in southern Vietnam – was denied as expected.

In February, Glitter received a three-month term reduction to mark the traditional Tet lunar new year, moving his official release date forward to August 2008.

news.com.au

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 5:34 am  Leave a Comment  

You Should Die In Jail

A young girl who was molested by a trusted elderly family member sat in court with her parents Tuesday, listening as a New London judge sentenced 80-year-old James J. Nieto to 30 years in prison.

“You should die in jail,” Judge Stuart M. Schimelman told Nieto after referencing “heartbreaking” evidence of damage to the girl and her sister.

The 10-year-old in jumper and tights had come to court expecting to deliver a victim impact statement, but she changed her mind when a marshal led the man she had known as “Doc” into the courtroom.

Nieto, who has been imprisoned since a jury convicted him Sept. 10, looked thinner and more fragile, wearing tan prison scrubs, than he had at trial, when he pushed his disabled wife’s wheelchair into court daily and wore business suits.

The young victim left the room for a few minutes after catching sight of him. Her older sister, who suffered a more invasive assault by Nieto over a longer period of time, had chosen not to attend at all.

Their mother spoke on their behalf, giving free rein to the anger that had grown since she discovered Nieto, of New Rochelle, N.Y., molested her daughters during gatherings at a relative’s home in Voluntown. She said Nieto had destroyed her children’s trust. The children are related to Nieto through marriage.

“I hope while you’re in prison, the same thing happens to you,” she said. She wished on him the same feelings of being small and overpowered. She hoped there would be nobody for him to talk to or trust. She told him to “live for a long time” with the knowledge of what he did to her daughters.

Nieto did not visibly react or speak during the sentencing.

Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said she continued to be startled by his callous and flip attitude toward the offenses. She said Nieto fondled the older sister multiple times and digitally penetrated her vagina. He had groped the younger girl more recently before the girl stopped him and disclosed the assaults to an adult family member.

“I don’t want to leave this case without commenting on the tremendous pain that was caused to this family,” Ferryman said.

Nieto confessed to police and several family members after he was confronted about the crimes. He had pleaded not guilty following his arrest and, in taking the case to trial, rejected a plea offer of eight years in prison. Both victims had testified at the trial, and the jury deliberated for just 20 minutes before convicting him.

Defense attorney Eugene J. Riccio emphasized Nieto’s lack of a prior record, his “excellent history” as an educator in New York City and good military record. He said it was very unusual to see somebody Nieto’s age in this type of situation. He said there was no way to rationalize the offenses.

“People who engage in this activity are undeniably ill,” Riccio said. He noted Nieto has physical and mental problems. He said the state, with its offer of eight years in prison, had given his client no alternative but to take the case to trial.

“The anger is understandable,” Riccio said. “I just don’t want the court to sentence this man as someone who walked away from a reasonable resolution.”

Schimelman commended the attorneys before sentencing Nieto.

“Many might feel Mr. Nieto should have no defense and no trial, but that’s not the society we are,” he said.

The judge said he considered Nieto’s background and education a detriment, because Nieto “certainly realized the crimes he perpetrated on these children.”

“I firmly believe that if we do not take action against those who perpetrate these types of crimes we are not a civilized society,” Schimelman said. No one wants to send an 80-year-old to prison, the judge said, but he had seen and heard the evidence of harm done to the children.

Riccio said he plans to appeal the verdict and asked the judge to set an appeal bond, so that Nieto could be released while the case is pending. The judge denied the bond, and a marshal led Nieto back to the courthouse lockup.

Karen Florin

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment  

You Should Die In Jail

A young girl who was molested by a trusted elderly family member sat in court with her parents Tuesday, listening as a New London judge sentenced 80-year-old James J. Nieto to 30 years in prison.

“You should die in jail,” Judge Stuart M. Schimelman told Nieto after referencing “heartbreaking” evidence of damage to the girl and her sister.

The 10-year-old in jumper and tights had come to court expecting to deliver a victim impact statement, but she changed her mind when a marshal led the man she had known as “Doc” into the courtroom.

Nieto, who has been imprisoned since a jury convicted him Sept. 10, looked thinner and more fragile, wearing tan prison scrubs, than he had at trial, when he pushed his disabled wife’s wheelchair into court daily and wore business suits.

The young victim left the room for a few minutes after catching sight of him. Her older sister, who suffered a more invasive assault by Nieto over a longer period of time, had chosen not to attend at all.

Their mother spoke on their behalf, giving free rein to the anger that had grown since she discovered Nieto, of New Rochelle, N.Y., molested her daughters during gatherings at a relative’s home in Voluntown. She said Nieto had destroyed her children’s trust. The children are related to Nieto through marriage.

“I hope while you’re in prison, the same thing happens to you,” she said. She wished on him the same feelings of being small and overpowered. She hoped there would be nobody for him to talk to or trust. She told him to “live for a long time” with the knowledge of what he did to her daughters.

Nieto did not visibly react or speak during the sentencing.

Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman said she continued to be startled by his callous and flip attitude toward the offenses. She said Nieto fondled the older sister multiple times and digitally penetrated her vagina. He had groped the younger girl more recently before the girl stopped him and disclosed the assaults to an adult family member.

“I don’t want to leave this case without commenting on the tremendous pain that was caused to this family,” Ferryman said.

Nieto confessed to police and several family members after he was confronted about the crimes. He had pleaded not guilty following his arrest and, in taking the case to trial, rejected a plea offer of eight years in prison. Both victims had testified at the trial, and the jury deliberated for just 20 minutes before convicting him.

Defense attorney Eugene J. Riccio emphasized Nieto’s lack of a prior record, his “excellent history” as an educator in New York City and good military record. He said it was very unusual to see somebody Nieto’s age in this type of situation. He said there was no way to rationalize the offenses.

“People who engage in this activity are undeniably ill,” Riccio said. He noted Nieto has physical and mental problems. He said the state, with its offer of eight years in prison, had given his client no alternative but to take the case to trial.

“The anger is understandable,” Riccio said. “I just don’t want the court to sentence this man as someone who walked away from a reasonable resolution.”

Schimelman commended the attorneys before sentencing Nieto.

“Many might feel Mr. Nieto should have no defense and no trial, but that’s not the society we are,” he said.

The judge said he considered Nieto’s background and education a detriment, because Nieto “certainly realized the crimes he perpetrated on these children.”

“I firmly believe that if we do not take action against those who perpetrate these types of crimes we are not a civilized society,” Schimelman said. No one wants to send an 80-year-old to prison, the judge said, but he had seen and heard the evidence of harm done to the children.

Riccio said he plans to appeal the verdict and asked the judge to set an appeal bond, so that Nieto could be released while the case is pending. The judge denied the bond, and a marshal led Nieto back to the courthouse lockup.

Karen Florin

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment