Ex-Modesto teacher James Hooker back in court today in 1998 sex case

DA says 8:30 a.m. hearing Tuesday should be a short one

naustin@modbee.comApril 9, 2012 

— Former Enochs High School teacher James Hooker goes to court today for a pretrial hearing, which Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager said will be short and procedural.

A crowded courtroom is expected in any case. National media flocked back to Modesto since the Friday arrest of Hooker, the 41-year-old man who abandoned his family and quit his job to pursue romance with 18-year-old student Jordan Powers.

Hooker faces a charge of sexual misconduct with a different teenager 14 years ago. After his arrest, Powers left the area and announced that they were through.

Hooker posted a $50,000 bond early Saturday and spent his weekend dodging camera crews and, according to Powers' mother, trying to win Jordan back.

Tammie Powers posted on her Facebook page that Hooker "has been relentless in contacting and talking to Jordan, as well as inflicting stress on all of my children." The post ends with a direct plea to Hooker: "James, you have primarily dealt with the very, very, sick version of Jordan's mother — I am getting stronger daily — do you hear me? Leave this kid and this family alone!"

Repeated attempts by The Bee to reach Hooker by phone and at his apartment were not successful. His only response was a text sent Saturday: "We have no comment."

Tammie Powers said Monday that Hooker called her daughter, asking her to post his bail Friday, even as she was packing to leave the apartment they shared for less than two months.

She whisked her daughter off to an undisclosed location that day, far from the TV news teams and far away from him.

"It isn't optimal, but it's what we had to do," Tammie Powers said Monday.

Jordan Powers told ABC News on Saturday that Hooker lied to her and she "lost everything for this guy." But Tammie Powers said she knows Hooker has called her daughter many times since then and worries that Jordan's resolve could fade.

"He's just relentless," she said.

Tammie Powers said when she had surgery last month, Hooker came with her daughter to the hospital and sat outside her room, refusing to leave, and has been seen driving in her neighborhood since his release.

She said she hasn't recovered enough to fly yet but talks with Jordan daily. Even through the very public battles of recent weeks, the two remained in contact, Tammie Powers said. "She disagreed with me about James, but we were still talking," she said.

Hooker is scheduled to appear today at 8:30 before Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff for a bail-review and pretrial hearing. He faces one charge of oral copulation with a minor in 1998, while a teacher at Davis High. Police have said the girl was not a Davis student.

At an earlier hearing, Zeff appointed the public defender's office to represent Hooker, who is unemployed. Hooker said at the time the $50,000 bail was excessive for "something that happened 14 years ago."

State legislation now allows prosecutors to file charges against a defendant accused of committing a sex crime against a minor, even 14 years later. The filing must be within a year of the crime being first reported and there must be independent evidence to corroborate the victim's allegation.

Police say the alleged victim came forward after Hooker's relationship with Jordan Powers gained national attention.

Today's hearing will be combined with a matter in his divorce proceedings, which had been scheduled for today in Family Court, according to court records.

Hooker left his wife and three daughters in mid-February after being placed on paid administrative leave by Modesto City Schools.

On Feb. 22, he resigned his post as business teacher at Enochs and moved Jordan Powers into his apartment. She stopped attending school but continued her classes on independent study.

Tammie Powers vigorously and publicly opposed her daughter's affair, berating Hooker on Facebook to spread word of what she saw as his abuse of power as a teacher. The couple countered with appearances on "Good Morning America" and "Dr. Phil."

Power's mother appeared opposite her daughter and Hooker on "Dr. Phil." She continues to lobby for a bill introduced by Modesto Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen that would make it a crime for high school teachers to date students of any age.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339.

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