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July 17, 2012

Ex-teacher faces October hearing in teen sex case

A preliminary hearing was scheduled in October for a former high school teacher from Modesto accused of having oral sex with a student in 1998. James Hooker gained national attention earlier this year after he left his wife and children and quit his job to move in with an 18-year-old student.

James Hooker’s attorney appeared in his stead in court this morning for a pretrial hearing in the case of a teacher accused of having sex with an underage student.

The case was continued to Aug. 20 for defense motions. 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.

Attorney Mary Lynn Belsher told Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff she needed more time to prepare her defense. Belsher said she got contact information only the night before about Hooker’s accuser.

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 television reporter. Belsher said the statute of limitations had long passed in this case.

Prosecutors, however, maintain 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 had 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.

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