Last year, nearly a dozen former theater students claimed they were abused and discriminated against by teachers during their time in the after-school program
Two people are facing charges in connection with the sexual abuse of students in their care at the Christian Youth Theater in El Cajon, county District Attorney Summer Stephan said Monday.
David Hott, 34, has been charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 for incidents that allegedly occurred in 2007 involving a 13-year-old child, the DA's office said. Brad Christian Davis, 40, has been charged with one felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object for an alleged 2010 incident involving a 16-year-old child, the agency said.
Christian Youth Theater is a national after-school theater company. Its headquarters are in El Cajon.
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Last year, nearly a dozen former theater students claimed they were abused and discriminated against by teachers during their time in the after-school program.
One parent told NBC 7 she had been raising concerns of sexual misconduct at the school since 2017. Melissa Baldwin said each time she was "rebuffed and given excuses."
At the time, Janie Russell Cox, president of the Christian Youth Theater, said she was unaware of the allegations and promised the program would investigate every claim.
In response to the charges against Hott and Davis, Christian Youth Theater said it "strongly condemns the alleged actions by the accused individuals."
"The alleged actions of the accused unquestionably contradict our values and our mission. We have a thorough background check process for all our teachers, staff and volunteers as well as ongoing training requirements in child safety. These resources underscore our commitment to the safety of our children. We will continue to fully cooperate with authorities during their investigation. Out of respect to all involved, we are unable to provide further comment," a statement from the group said.
It was unclear if the allegations raised in 2020 led to this week's charges but, at the time, the San Diego Police Department did say they were investigating the claims made by former students.
If convicted, Hott faces up to 10 years in prison, and Davis faces up to three years, Stephan said.
Superior Court Judge Michael Groch set bail at $100,000 for both men, neither of whom are in custody, according to Stephan's office.
The District Attorney's Office was able to file charges under a law that provides a longer statute of limitations in certain legal circumstances, Stephan said.
"Victims in this case, whose abuse was beyond the statute of limitations, still provided valuable information and evidence that allowed their voices to be heard and will allow us to seek justice," Stephan said."
The DA's office said most people who experience childhood sexual abuse delay telling authorities or choose never to disclose it because of fear, embarrassment, shame or the stigma of being a victim.
Sometimes, though, not all crimes against victims can legally be charged. In these cases, Stephan said, the victim is still an integral part of achieving justice in the overall case because the courts may allow for “pattern evidence” to be admitted as a piece of circumstantial evidence in cases involving sexual assaults.
The District Attorney's Office and San Diego Police Department are asking for any additional victims to come forward; those with information are urged to call the police department.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said he thanked the victims "for their courage in coming forward and our Sex Crimes Detectives for working diligently on this case with the District Attorney's Office."
"We must hold these individuals responsible for their actions, so they don't have the opportunity to harm more children in the future."