A former choral teacher who was charged with the 1998 rape of a 13-year-old female student pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Antelope Municipal Court, officials said.
Wayne Martin, 50, of Palmdale, was charged with forcible rape, child molestation and sexual intercourse with a minor under 16, said Phil Rabichow, head deputy district attorney at the county office in Lancaster.
The alleged January 1998 rape took place in an office during school hours at Mesa Intermediate School in Palmdale, officials said.
Martin surrendered to sheriff's deputies Tuesday after a two-month investigation.
One issue to be examined in the case is the student's delay in reporting the alleged incident to authorities, said Kenneth Jones, Martin's public defense attorney.
Palmdale schools Supt. Nancy Smith said Martin had worked in the district since 1990, teaching choral music at several campuses, including Mesa Intermediate.
The school district, she said, did not learn of the sexual assault investigation until last week.
A popular teacher with students, co-workers and parents, Martin has directed the production of many holiday music programs and performances, Smith said.
"He's a very nice, soft-spoken person," she said. "We never had a complaint. And there were no complaints of professional misconduct."
In March 1998, Martin was arrested during non-school hours on suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia, and was subsequently suspended from his teaching position without pay, Smith said.
Martin resigned from the district in July 1998 when his temporary teaching credential expired, Smith said.
On Wednesday, the mother of the alleged victim declined to comment on the case, but earlier in the day she reportedly told a television station that her daughter was afraid to notify police because of the pain it would cause her family.
If convicted, Martin would face a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison on each of the forcible rape and child molestation charges, Rabichow said.
The charge of sexual intercourse with a minor carries a maximum sentence of four years in state prison, he said.
Martin was being held at the sheriff's Lancaster station jail pending $110,000 bail.
A preliminary hearing has been set for Aug. 31.