Sex With a Student Investigation

Sobrato High football coach has taken a leave of absence in the
wake of allegation
By staff writer Matt King and editor Marcus Hibdon

Morgan Hill – Jeff Patterson, the varsity football coach at Sobrato High School, has taken a leave of absence while police investigate an accusation that the coach had oral sex with a 17-year-old student during school hours last Friday.

No charges have been filed and Patterson has not been arrested, but according to the Morgan Hill Police Department’s daily activity log, the girl’s mother told police Tuesday her daughter forged a note to miss her sixth period math class on Friday, Nov. 4 at the urging of Patterson. The woman said her daughter told her that she then met Patterson at a trailer park on Burnett Avenue, traveled to the Morgan Hill UPS Store, then performed oral sex on him in his car while parked along the road. The report said the contact “may be consensual, but the daughter did see a counselor today because she is very emotional.”

Patterson, who is married, did not return phone calls to his home in Hollister seeking comment.

Larry Biegel, a criminal defense attorney from Monterey, whom Patterson has consulted but not retained, said the coach intends to cooperate with the investigation. Biegel said he has not been able to contact Morgan Hill police.

“At this point, we’re trying to find out the who, the what, the why and the where,” Biegel said. “It’s being investigated, but anybody can make a report about anything.

Patterson joined Sobrato as the first coach in the school’s history after it opened in May of 2004. Before that he served as the head football coach and athletic director at Gonzales High School. He grew up in Gilroy and played quarterback for the Mustangs before graduating in 1992. He also attended and played football at Gavilan College. He graduated from San Jose State in 1998. Patterson is believed to be 31 years old, according to the dispatch report.

In 2001, Patterson assisted in coaching the Gilroy football team under head coach Darren Yafai. He served as the Mustang’s freshman football coach in 2002.

Patterson was not at football practice Wednesday evening. Interim head coach Joseph Bagley said that Patterson has not been suspended, but “has taken a personal leave of absence to take care of some personal stuff that came up.”

“I don’t know when he will return,” Bagley said “The kids had a really great practice today and they really want to give him a win in this last game [of the season on Friday.”

District officials would not confirm if he had returned to the school since the report had been filed.

The Morgan Hill Police Department is in the preliminary stages of the investigation according to Cmdr. Terrie Booten. She said police began investigating the charges Tuesday, but she had no additional information.

“They’re investigating it and looking into the particulars of the case,” Booten said. “I don’t have any additional information aside from what is on the dispatch report. There’s a very preliminary investigation, but we’re just getting started.”

Morgan Hill Police Chief Bruce Cumming said the victim’s testimony could be evidence enough to lead to an arrest, but it is too early in the investigation to confirm if an arrest will be made.

“It depends on the circumstances and each case is different,” Cumming said. “We have a lot more investigating to do.”

Morgan Hill Unified School District Superintendent Alan Nishino said he was aware of the accusations, but could not comment on the situation. Sobrato Principal Rich Knapp refused to comment.

“I know about it,” Nishino said late Wednesday afternoon. “I can’t tell you anything because it’s a personnel issue.”

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Steve Rose had little additional information to give.

“I really can’t comment because it’s a pending investigation,” Rose said. “We have to protect the privacy of everyone concerned including our employee and the student.”

He did say the district will cooperate with the police investigation and take action if necessary. Rose also would not comment if the district planned to start their own investigation into the allegations.

“We take all steps to protect students and to protect the privacy of our employees during allegations such as these,” Rose said. “We also will take every appropriate corrective action if necessary. We plan to cooperate fully with the police investigation.”

Staff writers Marilyn Dubil and Leanne Shea contributed to this report.

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