Supporters Refute Allegations Against Karate Instructor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCSanDiego

    Eric Protas,38, of La Mesa has been arrested, accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy.

    On the day he was set to be arraigned, close to 100 people showed up outside the San Diego County courthouse in El Cajon in support of the karate instructor.

    "This man is a wonderful man & he has been a wonderful role model for my children," said Paulette Gallanis, one of Protas' students.

    "He is a great man. He has dedicated his life to everybody, not just children but also adults," said fellow instructor Maria Casey.

    La Mesa Police say Protas sexually abused the now-14-year old 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.

    Protas' brother said the allegations are "pure retaliation" from a former student who was kicked out of his brother's school.

    Ben Protas said he and his brother have known the student and his mother for many years and believes the mother made the false allegations without realizing how badly it would hurt his brother.

    The suspect’s brother said Friday that he believes the charges will be dropped.

    Supporters have created a Facebook page "Head Instructor Eric Protas is Innocent" and are soliciting donations for his defense fund. A photo posted to the page showed the crowd outside the courtroom Monday and asked that supporters tag themselves.

    Eric Protas pleaded not guilty to four charges including oral copulation and sodomy with a minor. He's being held on $1 million bail.

    If you have any information on this case, please call the Detective Jason Sieckman at (619) 667-1439.