Trial Begins for Ex-Teacher Charged With Multiple Counts of Lewd Acts Involving Minor

Robert Noel Anderson is accused of molesting former students at Dehesa Elementary

Ed. Note: On October 23, 2015, prosecutors dropped charges against Robert Noel Anderson and the case was dismissed.

Opening statements began Wednesday in the trial of a former East County teacher accused of molesting at least nine female students.

Robert Noel Anderson, 58, is facing 12 counts of lewd acts involving a minor with a 15 year maximum in prison per count. 

"Nine little girls' lives were changed by that man," said Deputy District Attorney Chantal DeMauregne, later adding that the girls "looked up to him and believed in him; he was someone they cared about, he had a position of trust as their teacher." 

One victim, who was 11 at the time, told NBC7 she didn't know who to tell when the ex-teacher put his hand in her shorts. 

"I was in shock," said the victim, recalling the experience. "This is my favorite teacher I ever had. How could he do something like this? And immediately I thought, who could I tell? My mom? I didn't know."

During the trial's opening statements, DeMauregne painted a picture of how Anderson, a beloved teacher at Dehesa Elementary, touched at least nine girls -- aged nine to 11 years old at the time -- over a three and a half year period from 2003 to 2006. At the time, Anderson worked there as a fourth and sixth grade teacher. 

"The defendant was their teacher and he had a position of trust and that trust was violated when he touched each one of them," DeMauregne said. 

Nine victims will testify during the trial. All alleged victims -- who are now adults -- claim he touched them on their genitals. To some girls, it happened once, but others were victimized multiple times, according to DeMauregne.

"There was touching and that's what some of it was," DeMauregne said. "Some of it was over the clothing and some underneath and you'll hear from each of the girls. And it was clearly sexual in nature, whether the touching was vaginal, breast or buttocks."  

She said students would regularily sit on his lap during their time with him and in one instance during the 2002 to 2003 school year, one sixth grade victim was at his desk when he reached around and put his hands in her pants, DeMauregne said. 

"She loved the defendant," DeMauregne said of the victim. "In fact, she used to call him, like a lot of kids, Mr. A. He was one of her favorite teachers, and she never told." 

When the victim told someone, she was at a different school. "The reason she told is because she found out that another little girl had made an allegation and said the defendant touched her too," the prosecutor said.  

DeMauregne told of other incidents involving the young victims where, at the time, the girls sat on his lap in the classroom and gave him back massages or rubs. 

When students wore their pajamas to school one day in 2003, one victim sitting on Anderson's lap, DeMauregne said, when the ex-teacher allegedly reached into her pajama pants and molested her. 

After the victim reported that incident the same day, the teacher was put on administrative leave. 

Under his lawyer Kerry Armstrong’s advice, Anderson agreed to stop teaching, though he denies all the claims.

"He's been adamant from day one. He says, 'Look I taught those kids.' He remembers their names after all these years. He says, 'Look I would never touch a child. I'd never touch a child inside my classroom or anywhere else,'" said Armstrong.

The attorney said he feels so strongly about his client's innocence that he allowed Anderson to talk with detectives during their initial investigation -- something he rarely advises clients to do.

According to Rohrer, the school contacted the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department after the first incident, but detectives had a hard time building a case against the accused teacher.

A different victim said when she would go up to his desk to have her work checked, the teacher would unzip the student's pants and put his hand inside, DeMauregne said. 

"It would just happen, he'd take his hand out and she'd go back to her desk," DeMauregne said, adding that it felt to the victim as if every time she went back to the desk, it would happen. 

Anderson was paid by the school district through 2007, according to a San Diego County Schools’ Music Watson. In 2010, his CalPERS retirement benefits kicked in.

Watson said Anderson did not work in any capacity in Dehesa or another school district after 2007. His attorney says since that time, he has been working as a proctor and test administrator for professionals trying to pass board certifications.

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