Some Sobrato students, parents question alleged victim’s
Morgan Hill – While Sobrato High School’s football coach and math teacher waits for the result of further investigation into allegations he had oral sex with a 17-year-old student in early November, the alleged victim said Friday she is distraught.
“I have had a hard time believing he could use me like that,” she said. “What I’m feeling, I just can’t believe that anyone would use someone like that. He seeked me out. That’s sad and sick.”
The Dispatch is not disclosing the identity of Jeff Patterson’s accuser because she is minor. During an interview at her home Friday, the mother of the girl said she was concerned because her daughter’s relationship with the coach was in the nature of a “seduction,” more emotionally involved than a simple moment of indiscretion.
Sobrato students and their parents questioned the girl’s credibility when interviewed by the Dispatch this week.
Police turned over the results of a three-week investigation to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office Tuesday, but Assistant District Attorney Victoria Brown requested further investigation before a decision on charges.
Patterson, a 31-year-old Hollister resident, has not been arrested and no charges have been filed. Police officials refused to comment on the investigation.
“We have been asked to take some other investigative steps,” said MHPD Cmdr. Joe Sampson on Wednesday, two days after department detectives presented the results of their investigations to Brown, supervisor for the DA’s sexual assault team. “It will likely be another couple of weeks before we meet with them again.”
Brown said Friday she could not comment on a case that’s pending. She confirmed Sampson’s estimate of time before the next meeting.
The alleged incident came to light after the 17-year-old student told her father – who called police four days after the Nov. 4 incident – that Patterson “urged” her to forge a note to get out of her sixth period class and meet him on Burnett Avenue in Morgan Hill, where she said he picked her up in his car. She said Patterson then drove to a nearby UPS store, parked the car on a side street where she allegedly performed oral sex.
Larry Biegle, Patterson’s attorney, said Friday the girl’s and mother’s comments were hearsay and that he worried it could compromise the integrity of the investigation. When asked if he wanted to defend his client, Biegle said it was inappropriate to comment on the investigation.
“I am told that there may be questions about this girl’s veracity, but that’s for the investigation. I don’t know whether you contacted her or she contacted you, but it is absolutely inappropriate and improper for, and for her or [the Dispatch] then to use that access to go with hearsay, uncorroborated, from the mother, who obviously doesn’t have first hand knowledge. To take this to the community where this young man has a reputation, to eviscerate that reputation, to it tear it up, when he can’t defend himself – he cannot defend himself – is irresponsible, and, as I said, reprehensible.”
The parent of a Sobrato student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her son attended daily math tutorial sessions Patterson held in his classroom during lunch. She said her son had told her the girl often attended the sessions. The student and several other students claim to have seen Patterson’s name and phrases containing his name written “all over” her notebooks, the parent said.
The girl’s mother said it was true.
“She may have had a crush on him, but he was the one in the position of authority,” she said. “He should have told her to stay away from him, told (Sobrato principal) Mr. Knapp to take her out of the class, done something to remove her from him. He’s the adult.”
However, her mother denies a series of rumors circulating among Sobrato students and their parents that brings the alleged victim’s credibility into question, including claims that she said she was engaged to a 39-year-old man while showing off a diamond ring to classmates. Other students said she told them she was having an affair with a 40-year-old neighbor at the same time the allegations surfaced.
“These are just stories,” the alleged victim’s mother said. “These are children, 15- and 16-year-olds, who made this up. It’s not true – it’s not feasible. We don’t even have a 40-year-old neighbor.”
She described her daughter as the typical teen-ager that has seen some trying times.
“I go by what the adults say, not the children,” she said. “And all her teachers say she is a likable and charming person.”
After a difficult year sophomore year, her mother said she had “turned her life around” this year.
“The root of these rumors is immaturity,” she said. “These kids are not looking at the relationship as a grown-up involved with a child, that my daughter is a victim. All they see is the football hero.”
The girl has not returned to school since the incident became public. Her mother said girl would not return to Sobrato High, that she is currently on a work study program and will try to spend her senior year at a different school outside of Morgan Hill.
Biegle, on Wednesday, said that the DA’s request for additional investigation was “judicious and appropriate.”
“Not speaking to this case specifically, but to my years of experience as a defense attorney, this shows the proper attention to a case like this,” he said. “These kinds of cases are very difficult. Sometimes, there will be enough information at the beginning that they feel confident in going forward with charges or in saying there is not enough evidence for charges. But this is typical, that they should wish to have every care that there is thorough investigation. You can’t read anything into this.”
Patterson is “trying to be positive,” but will not comment on the investigation, Biegle said.
“No one would like to be in his position right now, waiting for the unknown to happen,” he said. “He is a very young man, and he has responsibilities as a husband and as a father. Obviously, he is able to spend more time with them now than he did during the football season, and he’s not having to make up math lesson plans every night, so if there is a positive, it is the time with his family.”
Patterson did not attend either the final varsity game or the end of season banquet and has not been teaching class. Biegle would not disclose Patterson’s status with the Morgan Hill School District, whether he was on paid administrative leave or voluntary leave, because it is a personnel issue.
MHSD Superintendent Alan Nishino refused to comment, for the same reason.
However, Biegle did say that the district has been “supportive” of Patterson.
“Obviously, they want to protect this girl, too, who is their client, and they are not trying to take sides,” he said. “They have taken no unilateral action.”