Thursday, January 15, 2015
C.A. Affirms Conviction of Teacher Who Had Sex With Minor
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the convictions of former Los Angeles Unified School District teacher George Jauregui who had sex on numerous occasions with an underage girl who was a former student and possessed sexually explicit photographs of them in the act of lovemaking.
Jauregui was the subject of a 2011 KTTV Fox 11 news report revealing that he had been drawing full pay as a teacher for three years while performing no duties. He had been escorted off campus, and his two laptop computers were confiscated, in December 2008 after his relationship with the former pupil was discovered.
The handling of those computers was the focus of Jauregui’s appeal. He contended the prosecution had failed to establish a “chain of custody.”
The laptops remained in an unlocked cabinet in the assistant principal’s office for two years before being taken to an LAUSD electronic data analyst who, on Dec. 15, 2010, copied the hard drives and found sexually explicit photographs on them.
At trial, the former pupil, Jeanette P., testified that Jauregui started snapping sexually explicit photos of her sometime after Dec. 14, 2007, when she was 16, and began videotaping them while engaged in sexual intercourse a year later.
Jauregui was convicted in the courtroom of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli of possession of child pornography and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Yesterday’s opinion, by Presiding Justice Tricia A. Bigelow of Div. Eight, upholds Jauregui’s four-year prison sentence and rejects his petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Chain of Custody
Bigelow found no merit to Jauregui’s contention that he is entitled to a reversal based on lack of a continuous chain of custody of the laptops.
She recited that Lomeli “admitted the evidence, reasoning the pictures found on the computers spoke for themselves, particularly where they depicted Jauregui with Jeanette.”
The jurist commented, in the unpublished opinion:
“[T]he record of the chain of custody for the laptops was far from perfect, but any shortcomings do not render the evidence inadmissible or inadequate to support the verdict….Any inadequacies in the chain of custody merely go to the weight of the evidence.”
Bigelow was also unpersuaded by Jauregui’s argument that he was denied effective representation by counsel, pointing to various errors his lawyer was said to have committed. She wrote:
“The record is clear. Jauregui was convicted because he had sex with Jeanette beginning when she was 16 years old and took explicit pictures and videos of her. There was ample evidence of his crimes….”
She said the appellant “has made no showing that the result of the trial would have been different” had the trial lawyer not committed the errors attributed to him.
Unknown to Jauregui at the time of the trial was that his lawyer, Chad Calabria, was himself facing trial on forgery charges. His counsel on appeal, Jennifer A. Mannix, argued that there was a conflict of interest, asserting:
“It can reasonably be assumed that Calabria had an interest in maintaining cordial and cooperative relationship with the district attorney’s office. This relationship undoubtedly could benefit Calabria in achieving a favorable disposition of the charges which he faced.”
Div. One Opinion
In light of the conflict, Mannix contended, prejudice need not be shown, citing Div. One’s April 25 opinion in Harris v. Superior Court (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 1129.
There, the appeals court ordered that information be set aside because the defendant Melvin Harris Jr.’s lawyer, Gustavo Diaz, was, at the time of the preliminary hearing, facing felony charges, unbeknownst to Harris.
“Although factually similar,” Bigelow said, “Harris does not apply because Jauregui stands in a much different procedural posture than Harris did.”
After the dismissal of the information, she pointed out, Harris could still have been tried and convicted.
“Jauregui cannot benefit from the holding [in] Harris because he has already been convicted,” Bigelow reasoned.
The case is People v. Jauregui, B249918.
Deputy Attorneys General Steven E. Mercer, James William Bilderback II and Marc A. Kohm represented the People.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company