A former varsity basketball coach and teacher in Anaheim was ordered Tuesday to serve 5 years' probation after admitting last year that he had sexually molested two 16-year-old students.
Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown's sentence of Christopher M. Lee, 42, of Newport Beach marked a partial trade-off in the severity of punishment, since Lee avoided any further jail time but got a probationary period that was longer than the standard 3 years.
Nonetheless, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathleen M. Kendle, who had sought a sentence of a year in County Jail, said she was "extremely disappointed" with Brown's decision.
"It took an awful lot of courage for these particular students to come forward," Kendle said of the two Esperanza High School students who reported Lee's repeated sexual activities with them to a school counselor.
The girls suffered "intense peer pressure and ostracism" at school for reporting a popular teacher, and "they deserved more than this sentence after what they've been through," Kendle said.
But Brown, in ordering probation for Lee, pointed to the "unusual circumstances" in the case--an apparent reference to Lee's unblemished history as a respected and well-liked English teacher and varsity basketball coach at Esperanza and as a community member in Newport Beach.
Lee has already spent 40 days confined in a state institution for a diagnostic review by mental health professionals. Brown indicated to the attorneys at a conference before the sentencing that he saw no need for any further imprisonment, the attorneys said.
Lee refused any comment on the case as he left the Santa Ana courthouse after his sentencing. His attorney, Ronald G. Brower, pleased with the outcome, said: "Any more jail time would have been too severe. He has already certainly suffered public humiliation from the publicity that attended this case."
Working as Supervisor
Now working as a supervisor at a construction firm, Lee has no plans to contest the formal loss of teaching certification that will follow Tuesday's criminal sentencing, Brower said.
Besides serving a 5-year probation sentence, Lee will have to register with the state as a sex offender and is barred from contact with minors unless another adult is present. He may also have to make restitution to the victims for the financial expenses they have incurred as a result of the molestation--such as psychiatric treatment.
Both victims are undergoing continued counseling to deal with the trauma of the experience, prosecutor Kendle said.
Lee pleaded guilty last fall to charges that he had repeated sexual relations with the two students--both in school and out--over a period of several months in 1987.
In his interviews with state mental health professionals, Lee could give no explanation for his conduct, according to prosecutor Kendle. His attorney has previously described the episode as a single moment of "human frailty" on Lee's part, "an extreme lapse in judgment."