A preliminary hearing was set for fall for James Hooker, the former high school teacher accused of having sex with an underage student 14 years ago.
Hooker's attorney, Mary Lynn Belsher, appeared for him in court Tuesday morning and asked for more time to make motions. Superior Court Thomas Zeff granted her request, giving her until Aug. 20. A preliminary hearing, expected to last a full day, was set for Oct. 2.
The former Enochs High teacher gained national attention in February after leaving his family to move in with an 18-year-old Enochs student. He faces a charge of oral copulation with a 17-year-old student in 1998 and remains free after posting $50,000 bail.
Belsher told Zeff she needed more time to prepare her defense, adding she got contact information about Hooker's accuser only the night before.
Outside the courtroom, Belsher said she would have motions to present Aug. 20, including a demand for more information from the prosecution. She said preparing a defense would take time, given the age of the charges.
"Can you tell me where you were 14 years ago?" she asked a TV reporter. Belsher said the statute of limitations long had passed in this case.
Prosecutors, however, maintain that the clock resets in cases of sex crimes against minors, giving them one year to file charges from when a report is made.
According to the criminal complaint, the woman, then a student at a different Modesto high school, met Hooker at a school club competition and started a romantic relationship with him, including a sexual encounter in August 1998.
Police arrested Hooker on April 6, saying they had corroborated the victim's allegations with interviews and physical evidence, including copies of e-mails Hooker sent her years later.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.