A karate instructor accused of having sex with a minor student is now scared for his life in the county jail, his attorney said Tuesday.
“You’re scared of being assaulted in jail, especially for crimes like this," said attorney Kerry Armstrong. "And even though he’s a black belt, sometimes that kind of a double-edged sword, because there are guys in jail who will test the biggest guy in jail, or the baddest guy in jail, and he’s worried about that.”
Josh Thomas Churchill, 31, pleaded not guilty at his court appearance Tuesday.
San Diego Superior Court Judge David Szumowski reduced bail for Churchill from $25 million to $1 million at the arraignment hearing.
Churchill faces 53 criminal counts of child molestation, including allegedly having sex with a female minor.
The victim’s mother spoke with NBC7 Tuesday at their home, telling us the situation has been very hard to deal with, especially during what is supposed to be proud moments for their daughter graduating high school.
A friend of the suspect said there is no possibility the allegations against Churchill could be true.
“He does what he loves; trying to keep kids out of trouble,” a woman, who would only be identified as Sherry, said. “He has a drive for doing this, for seeing kids succeed and guide them to the right path.”
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department arrested Churchill last Thursday on 500 criminal counts, after crashing through the front glass door of United Studios Self Defense Karate Studio at 13331 Poway Road to serve search warrants.
Churchill was the studio’s operator and lead instructor.
Investigators say for more than three years, the suspect committed illegal acts against a minor at the studio and other locations.
He was arrested Thursday near his San Diego home.
According to his Facebook page "Sensei-Josh Churchill," Churchill was previously an instructor at Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios in Poway, but his last post on April 2 said he was no longer working there.
"I'm sure there'll be a lot of lies and negative things spread, but if you really want to know, call me," the post read.
Tom Francis, an attorney for Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios, said the Poway branch closed down when Churchill left to open his own studio in April.
"We're shocked about this as well," said Francis on behalf of his client.
NBC 7 also found a recent civil court complaint filed on June 2 by Churchill. In the court papers, he asked for a protective order against an ex-employee of Z-Ultimate and her father, alleging that the they attacked him in May after she was fired.
The ex-employee responded with a restraining order application of her own. Both sides were scheduled to hash out the case in court on June 17.
Classes at the United Studios Self Defense Karate Studio were canceled Monday as word spread about Churchill's arrest.
Michelle, a mother of one of Churchill's students, said she is in disbelief after hearing the accusations against her daughter's instructor.
"It's shock. It's scary. It's a parent's worst nightmare. You hope it never, ever happens to your child," Michelle said.
Churchill has declined interview requests from NBC 7.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the sheriff's child abuse unit at 858-565-5200.