Boy Testifies Against Karate Instructor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCSanDiego

    Preliminary hearings started in El Cajon Tuesday for a La Mesa karate instructor who allegedly molested a 13-year-old boy.

    Eric Protas, 38, was arrested in August. Police say Protas sexually abused his former student over a one-year period. Prosecutors allege that Protas had sexual contact with the victim 300 times in the past year and a half.

    Boy Testifies Against Karate Instructor

    [DGO] Boy Testifies Against Karate Instructor
    Preliminary hearings started in El Cajon Tuesday for a La Mesa karate instructor who allegedly molested a 13-year-old boy. (Published Tuesday, Oct 5, 2010)

    During Tuesday's testimony, the boy told the court that the first time the pair had sex was at a sleepover the night before a class trip to go and play paintball.

    "It took me awhile to understand -- I did not understand the clues that he was giving me, but he said that maybe if we wrestled, something would come out," the now 14-year-old told the court.

    The alleged victim also testified he would spend every day with Protas, who he said was like a father figure to him.

    "At first it started real slow, maybe once or twice a week, and then it began more frequent[ly], maybe five or six days a week almost every time," the teen told the court. The boy said Protas would make him feel guilty if he did not comply.

    A woman in Allied Gardens, where the karate studio is located, told NBCSanDiego that her son attended Protas' karate school nearly 10 years ago. Karen Young said her son told her that Protas touched him inappropriately during his class.

    "When he'd show [her son] what he was doing wrong or correct a position, he'd touch him on the butt," Young said. "[My son] got to the point where he refused to go there any more, and then I took it seriously and let him pull out. But that was some years ago this happened to my son."

    After court, Protas' lawyer said his client is being railroaded "to the degree that they're promoting him as a pedophile, but yet there's no other victims -- alleged victims -- coming forward," Albert Arena said. "There are certain things you haven't heard yet about this young man's background that will put Mr. Protas' comments in context."

    Protas' brother Ben said the allegations are "pure retaliation" from a former student who was kicked out of his brother's school. Ben also said he and his brother have known the student and his mother for many years and believes the woman made the false allegations without realizing how badly it would hurt his brother.

    "This is all baseless, and in the end, the truth will come out, and it will be that Eric Protas is innocent," Ben said.

    Initially, Eric Protas faced four charges of oral copulation and sodomy with a minor; on Tuesday prosecutors added 18 more charges against the defendant. If convicted, Protas faces 48 years in jail.