Woman tells of 1998 relationship with Hooker at preliminary hearing

rahumada@modbee.comOctober 2, 2012 

— A 31-year-old woman on Tuesday testified in a preliminary hearing that a former Modesto schoolteacher performed oral sex on her 14 years ago at his mother's house when she was 17.

The woman, identified in court as Jane Doe, said she had gone into the bedroom of the home outside Turlock to watch a movie with James Hooker, who was then a teacher at Davis High School in Modesto.

Deputy District Attorney Beth O'Hara Owen asked what went on in the bedroom after they closed the door, and the woman answered, "Not a lot of movie watching. A lot of kissing; that's where the oral sex occurred."

Hooker, 42, of Modesto has been charged with one count of committing oral copulation with a person younger than 18 stemming from the alleged incident in the summer of 1998.

Hooker gained national attention earlier this year when he left his wife and three daughters and quit his job to move in with an 18-year-old former student. He and Jordan Powers still are together, her mother confirmed Tuesday.

The preliminary hearing will determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial. Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff will make that decision at the conclusion of the hearing.

Testimony ended abruptly Tuesday afternoon after only two witnesses when Mary Lynn Belsher, Hooker's defense attorney, argued for a dismissal of the charge based on the statute of limitations. Belsher agreed to delay the preliminary hearing until Zeff can rule Oct. 23.

Before that, the alleged victim described the relationship she had with Hooker. She said she met him at a Future Business Leaders of America conference. He was then a business teacher at Davis High; she was a senior across town at Beyer High.

Hooker, the alleged victim and another student went to Orlando, Fla., for another conference after the girl graduated. She testified that she and Hooker ended up alone in her room for about an hour.

They talked, she testified, ignoring what was on TV, and at one point "wrestled." She said it was "playful, clothes were on." Hooker then left the room and there was no further physical contact, she said.

Messages got more romantic

After she returned from Florida, she said she and Hooker began exchanging instant messages. She said she visited Hooker while he was teaching a summer school class at Modesto High. During his class, she testified that they exchanged notes with song lyrics that expressed their feelings toward each other.

"(The notes) got romantic," the woman testified. "They got more emotional, more expressive."

She said they talked about wanting to spend more time together, hold each other and kiss. She testified that she once visited him at Davis High, where they spent some time "kissing in one of the storage closets."

In August 1998, she went with him to his mother's house. As the alleged victim described the sexual encounter in court, Hooker wrote on a yellow legal notepad in front of him and shook his head. She said he performed oral sex on her, she did not perform oral sex on him.

"At some point, he made a phone call to his wife … it sounded like she was upset at him," she testified.

Later that day, she said, the two of them went to a drive-in and saw the movie "Armageddon."

"There was a lot of making out in the car, a lot of fondling," she testified.

She said they discussed having sexual intercourse but didn't because they did not have a condom and the vehicle was uncomfortable.

A few weeks later, Hooker ended the relationship. The woman testified that he told her that his wife had discovered an e-mail that revealed their affair.

She said Hooker told her he was choosing to stay with his wife, who at that point was living with their children in Fresno. Hooker worked in Modesto, lived with his mother and visited his family on weekends.

Modesto police Detective Steven Anderson testified that he talked with Hooker's wife, who has filed for divorce. She told Anderson she learned of the alleged 1998 victim in January after discovering her husband's affair with Powers, according to the arrest affidavit. Hooker told his wife that the alleged victim pursued a relationship with him.

Hooker's wife told Anderson that Hooker said the alleged victim once came out of a room naked at her mother's home and he only "touched" but did not have sex with her. The detective testified that Hooker's wife told him that he confessed the relationship with the alleged victim.

Witness came forward

Detectives initially began to investigate Hooker in January after Tammie Powers reported an inappropriate relationship between her daughter and Hooker, who was then a business teacher at Enochs High. Jordan Powers moved in with Hooker on Feb. 22, the day he resigned from Modesto City Schools.

During that investigation, the detectives learned of the alleged victim from August 1998. She told police she was involved in a romantic relationship with Hooker the summer after she graduated from Beyer High.

Tammie Powers was in the courthouse hallway Tuesday, expecting to be called as a witness by the defense; she never was. She said her daughter continues to live with Hooker, but she maintains a good relationship with Jordan.

Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred also attended the hearing; she is representing the alleged victim.

Jane Doe testified that she decided to report to police the sexual relationship she had with Hooker after she learned of news reports of his affair with Powers, "because he had become a repeat offender. I thought he had gone back to his family."

She testified that she felt it was time to tell police what had happened to her. "I have been keeping this to myself for 14 years, and I'm done," she said on the witness stand.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.


STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ARGUMENT

James Hooker's defense attorney, Mary Lynn Belsher, argued Tuesday during her client's preliminary hearing that the charges should be dismissed because the statute of limitations has expired.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff said both sides would need time to file arguments on the issue before he can rule. He scheduled the attorneys and Hooker to return to court Oct. 23.

If the judge denies the motion to dismiss the criminal charge, he will then determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

The statute of limitations for the charge of oral copulation of a person younger than 18 is 10 years. But Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager has said state legislation now allows prosecutors to file charges against a defendant accused of committing a sex crime against a minor, even if it's been more than a decade after the incident is claimed to have occurred.

Under state law, a crime can be reported by anyone of any age to any police agency in California. Fladager said there are some requirements that must be met to file such criminal charges:

• Prosecutors have one year after an incident is reported to police to file a criminal charge.

• The alleged crime must involve substantial sexual misconduct.

• There must be independent evidence that corroborates the victim's allegation.


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