Modesto karate instructor convicted of sex abuse wants to withdraw plea
A Modesto karate instructor on Tuesday was supposed to be sentenced to 29 years and eight months in prison for sexually abusing several of his students. But the defendant wants to withdraw his no contest plea, which could send the Stanislaus County child abuse case to trial.
Carlos Silva Loya was the owner and master instructor of Kempo Karate School when he was arrested in August 2016. Prosecutors initially charged him with 29 felony counts of sexual abuse based on allegations from boys at his school.
One boy, identified in court as John Doe 1, was the first to allege Loya had sexually abused him. During a police interrogation, Loya confessed to having a sexual relationship with John Doe 1, according to testimony from Modesto police Detective Sean Dodge.
At a March 2017 preliminary hearing, Dodge testified that Loya admitted to having sex with the boy five times and was willing to write a letter of apology. After a news report about Loya’s arrest appeared in The Modesto Bee, Dodge said, several other boys reported that Loya abused them, as well.
Dodge questioned Loya shortly after his arrest. The detective told the judge that Loya thought he was being questioned because the defendant was a registered sex offender stemming from a sexual battery conviction about 25 years ago.
On March 26, Loya and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office agreed to the plea deal. Loya pleaded no contest to seven counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child and one count of committing sodomy by force on a child younger than 14 years old. The rest of the charges were dropped.
Loya returned to court Tuesday afternoon. His attorney, Ben Jacob, told the judge that his client wanted to explore the possibility of withdrawing his plea. Jacob asked the judge to postpone the hearing so Loya could have time to file a motion to withdraw his plea.
Loya has hired a new attorney, Lewis Wentz, to help him conduct research and file the motion. On Tuesday, Wentz told the judge that Loya suffered a severe head injury about six years ago. The attorney said he needs time to hire a head trauma expert to examine Loya, presumably to determine whether Loya’s injury provides the legal grounds to withdraw his plea.
Wentz also said he needs time to review the voluminous case before filing the motion to withdraw the plea.
Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz told the judge that the defendant has no legal basis to withdraw his plea. She argued that Loya has had plenty of time to consider a trial and a plea deal.
Schwartz said Loya has had other attorneys represent him in this case, including the county’s Public Defender’s Office, and Jacob has been on this case for more than a year. She asked the judge to proceed with the sentencing.
Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff said the court can’t deny the defendant his right to file a motion to withdraw his plea.
“I don’t think I have much of a choice in the matter,” Zeff said in court.
The judge scheduled the defendant to return to court July 23 to argue his motion to withdraw his plea. If Zeff rejects the defense motion, he will then reschedule Loya’s sentencing.
Loya remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, where he has been since Aug. 17, 2016.