Professor's status kept mum

January 5, 2005 

  • Amber Frey's book about her romance with Scott Peterson appeared to be in moderate demand Tuesday at some bookstores in Modesto, where he killed his pregnant wife and unborn son a little more than two years ago.

    Richland Supermarkets -- where The Bee bought the book three days before its scheduled release, thanks to a distribution company's "employee error" -- sold copies steadily Tuesday, a store representative said.

    Heavy snow blocking truck traffic on the Sierra Nevada's Donner Pass, however, kept Barnes & Noble Booksellers' patrons from getting the first copies of "Witness For the Prosecution of Scott Peterson."

    Also Tuesday, Frey's attorney, Gloria Allred, said she and her client stand behind the image on the book's cover, which Laci Peterson's loved ones criticized Monday because it includes her photograph, along with one of Frey and another of Scott Peterson.

    "All these images or similar ones have appeared together or separately in thousands of publications, on TV and on the Internet," Allred said in a statement, "because these three individuals were essential to the criminal prosecution. Given that, we believe the depiction on the cover is appropriate."

    Allred said she was calling Tuesday from the airport while they awaited a flight to Chicago to film today's "Oprah Winfrey Show." She confirmed that a baby squealing in the background was her client's 8-month-old son, Justin.

    Frey told NBC's Matt Lauer this week that she "had a good feeling and a sense that I would hear from (Scott Peterson) again, that it wasn't just going to be a one-night stand."

    The interview was her first since the world learned in January 2003 that the single mother from Fresno was Peterson's lover when Laci Peterson disappeared.

    Scott Peterson eventually became "a pathological liar to me," Frey told Lauer. "Nothing he said was the truth."

    Frey, a massage therapist, is scheduled to appear Thursday on NBC's "Today" show and has other book-tour interviews lined up through at least the middle of next week, Allred said.

    "A lot of people are interested in Amber and her story," said

    Allred, whose client avoided reporters until "Witness" hit the bookstands. "After two years of silence, I'm very glad she can tell it in her voice and in her own way."

    A Modesto Barnes & Noble manager said the shipment from its warehouse in Reno should arrive shortly. "Witness" is available at Borders, Waldenbooks and other stores.

    Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

Stephen Schoenthaler, the professor who headed a tainted survey used to gauge juror bias in the Scott Peterson case, remains on paid leave, university spokesman Don Hansen said Tuesday.

A tenured professor, Schoenthaler hasn't taught at California State University, Stanislaus, for almost a year. That was about the time the university kicked off an investigation into his role in the survey.

Several students told The Bee in December 2003 that they made up results for the survey, which ultimately factored into a judge's decision to move the Peterson trial from Stanislaus County to San Mateo County.

The students claimed they used bogus responses because of deadline pressure to complete the survey, on which they received a grade.

A separate investigation led to 25 of 58students in the class being disciplined for cheating and 31 students being cleared of any wrongdoing. Last fall, two cases remained unresolved.

Stacey Morgan-Foster, vice president for student affairs, could not be reached Tuesday to discuss the status of the final two cases.

Schoenthaler has taught sociology and criminal justice at the university since 1982. It was last January that he abruptly stopped teaching a few days before the end of winter term.

He's been on paid leave since spring of 2004. At first, he performed unspecified duties outside the classroom. By the fall term, he was on leave without duties.

A request for Schoenthaler's payroll records since Jan. 29, 2004, was not granted by deadline Tuesday.

Hansen said the investigation into possible scientific misconduct by Schoenthaler, for his role in overseeing the flawed survey, is complete.

"The findings of the investigation are not public information," he added. "I do not know what those findings are."

Hansen said it's a personnel matter subject to confidentiality laws and collective bargaining contracts.

Schoenthaler will remain on leave while the administrative process leading to final action continues, Hansen said.

"A finding has been made," he said. "Now it's up to the parties involved to respond to all of it."

Alternate teacher takes class

Schoenthaler was on the class schedule to teach Historical and Contemporary Criminal Justice this term. Fifteen students signed up. About a dozen came to the first day of class Tuesday.

Students found Dave Young, a retired Modesto police officer, teaching the course. However, the students, none of whom would speak for attribution, seemed indifferent to the change.

Some said they didn't care or pay attention to who was teaching. Others said they'd never heard of Schoenthaler. One said she'd heard a rumor that

Schoenthaler will never come back, though she'd hoped to see him.

"He's a really good professor," she said.

Reached outside his Turlock home Tuesday, Schoenthaler declined to comment.

Paul O'Brien, chairman of the sociology and criminal justice department, said the administration told him the investigation is complete, though he's seen nothing in writing.

"My gut tells me that they've made a decision and he now has time to refute it," O'Brien said, adding that he suspects the matter will conclude later this month.

O'Brien said this semester his department was under the "typical pressure" of having to scramble to find a replacement for Schoenthaler. This is the third semester the department has had to find last-minute replacements.

Richard Herman, a Modesto defense attorney who represented two of Schoenthaler's students in the school's investigation, said he expects results of the Schoenthaler probe to remain under wraps.

"That's their own internal business, what they do with a tenured professor of long standing," he said. "Within the framework of the tenured rules, it becomes a matter of internal discipline. It's not a matter of external discipline."

Bee staff writer Melanie Turner can be reached at 578-2366 or mturner@modbee.com.

Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service