HUNTINGTON PARK — After hearing testimony from five girls who claim they were molested by their first-grade teacher, a Municipal Court judge ruled this week that there is enough evidence to bring the teacher to trial.
Stanley Komae, 37, who is on unpaid leave from Heliotrope Avenue School in Maywood, is charged with 29 felony counts of molestation. Komae, a resident of Norwalk, remained free on $20,000 bail and was ordered to appear March 13 in the Norwalk branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court for arraignment and the setting of a trial date.
During a preliminary hearing in Huntington Park Municipal Court, Judge Russell Schooling heard testimony from three girls who were in Komae's class before he was relieved of teaching duties in October, and from two girls who were in his class two years ago.
The girls, who range in age from 5 to 9, testified that Komae called them to his desk individually and rubbed their pubic areas, then had the girls do the same to him. The girls said they were touched inside and outside their underwear, but that all touching of Komae occurred through his pants.
The alleged molestations were not disclosed earlier, the girls testified, because Komae threatened to harm their families if the "touching game" was revealed. "He said he would kill our parents with his Dobermans," one girl testified.
The frequency of the alleged touchings varied from every day to once a week, the girls said. The alleged molestations would occur when Komae kept the 12 to 15 girls in his class from going to recess, lunch break or physical education period, the girls said. The boys would be sent outside with a teacher's aide, the girls testified. There were 26 children in Komae's class.
In addition to the touching that allegedly occurred at Komae's desk, one girl testified that Komae had taken her into a classroom closet and touched her. Another girl testified that Komae bit her on the inner thigh, leaving a purple bruise.
In questioning the girls, Komae's attorney Gary M. Pohlson implied that they fabricated the molestation stories to get the teacher in trouble because he was strict in the classroom.
The girls acknowledged that Komae had yelled at them for misbehaving and that they considered him a "hard teacher."
Pohlson repeatedly asked each of the girls, "You didn't like Mr. Komae, did you?" and the girls agreed.
Some of the girls admitted they were friends, had discussed the alleged touchings with one another and knew that disclosing the allegations "would get Mr. Komae in trouble."
Under questioning by Pohlson, some of the girls contradicted themselves about the frequency with which the alleged molestations occurred and to whom they first reported the incidents.
But when Pohlson asked the girls if they had lied about the alleged molestations, they maintained that the touchings had happened.
Komae was accompanied in court by his wife and about 30 members of his family and church, some of whom read Bibles during the proceedings. Asked why so many people attended, one church member said, "We wanted to be here to support him because we don't believe these charges."
Komae was originally charged with 31 counts of molestation, but two of the counts were dropped after the preliminary hearing because one girl scheduled to testify was in Mexico this week. The 29 remaining counts stem from the alleged molestations of the five girls who testified at the preliminary hearing.
If convicted on all counts, Komae could face up to 232 years in prison.