Preliminary hearings started in El Cajon Tuesday for a La Mesa karate instructor who allegedly molested a 13-year-old boy.
While family and clients publicly rallied to his defense, a La Mesa karate instructor spoke secretly to a 14-year old boy with whom he had had sexual contact close to 300 times, telling the teen he was sorry and missed what both referred to as “their connection.”
The recorded conversation, entered as evidence in the case, gives parents an idea of the tactics used by a sexual predator.
Eric Protas, pleaded guilty Feb. 23 to 29 felony charges levied against him including committing lewd acts on a child for sexually abusing a teenage boy over a one-year period. The victim in the case was a student at Protas’ karate studio, the Allied Gardens School of Martial Arts on Waring Road.
There was no plea bargain in the case.
In a phone call with the victim obtained by NBCSanDiego.com, the 38-year-old Protas professed his love to the teenager and promised to “do whatever you like to be your friend.”
“Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it,” Protas said during the conversation that took place in the months prior to his guilty plea.
When the taped conversation was mentioned in pre-trial discussions, defense attorney Albert Arena said his client made no admissions on what he described as a controlled call with the alleged victim.
The conversation between the two was "open to interpretation” according to Arena.
Although the phone call didn’t get graphic, the teenager can be heard trying to get Protas to discuss their physical relationship
“What prompted you to call me today?” Protas asked during the call.
“I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I wanted to gather all my thoughts,” the teen said. “Do you think that we could achieve the same level of connection without having the sex?”
“Um, I don’t want to talk about that,” Protas said.
”Why not?” the teen asks.
“It’s just strange that you would call and go right to that topic,” Protas explained.
“You know that that was a huge part,” the teen said.
“Yeah,” said Protas.
During the conversation, the teenager explains to Protas how he’s keeping the call between them from his mother, deleting the record of the call so she would not discover that they had talked. Then the boy alluded to other things he had kept from his mother.
“I never told her that we did it. You know that right?” the teen asks on the recording.
“Yes,” said Protas.
“I would never do that,” the teen said.
“That would, as you know destroy everything,” Protas said. “I would not allow myself to go down that path. I would end it, if you know what I mean.”
The karate instructor and his family had garnered a lot of support from the community when charges were first brought against Protas last year.
They called Protas a “wonderful man" and a "role model."
They dismissed the allegations as those from a former student who had been kicked out of the school.
As one listens to the audio recording of the now convicted child molester talking to his victim when he knows he shouldn't be, explaining how he would commit suicide if discovered and willing to do anything to keep the teen’s friendship, this sexual predator’s methods used in private for more than a year are now out in the light.
“There is nothing like this out there,” Protas can be heard telling his victim.
“I love you so much,” he said.