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Teacher is sentenced to 5 years for molesting girls at his school

Eric Norman Olsen, a substitute for several Southland districts, admitted inappropriate contact with six students.

July 07, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

A former substitute teacher from Ontario who admitted to inappropriately touching six students under the age of 11 during school hours was sentenced to five years in prison by a San Bernardino Superior Court judge Friday.

Authorities began investigating Eric Norman Olsen, who taught in more than a dozen Southern California school districts, after several students at Berlyn Elementary School in Ontario reported that he had put his hand under a girl's shirt and touched her back while she showed him her assignments.

During the investigation last summer, Olsen told police he had become sexually aroused by more than 100 to 200 children that he held on his lap over the course of three years while working in Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern Counties.

The parents of 13 girls reported that their children had been touched inappropriately by Olsen. The San Bernardino County district attorney's office filed 11 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child against Olsen.

But all of the girls were 10 or younger -- their average age was 6, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Jason Anderson -- and they struggled to answer the prosecutor's questions at the Oct. 30 preliminary hearing.

On the witness stand, some of the girls said they did not remember having Olsen as their teacher. Others could not identify him as he sat before them in the courtroom in jail attire.

One girl bowed her head and covered her face with her hair while refusing to respond to questions. She left the courtroom in tears clutching a teddy bear.

A first-grader from Valle Vista Elementary School in Rancho Cucamonga testified that Olsen made students sit on his lap when they needed help with their homework.

Judge Katrina West dismissed nine of 11 counts against Olsen at the October hearing because of lack of evidence. Anderson refiled four of the charges, saying that he believed the department had a strong case against Olsen.

The incidents occurred on three separate days in June, September and December of 2005 in schools in the Fontana and Ontario-Montclair school districts, according to attorneys handling the case.

In February, Olsen pleaded no contest to the six remaining counts of child molestation.

He was evaluated by a psychiatrist at the California Institution for Men in Chino, and by two independent, court-appointed psychiatrists. Two psychiatrists diagnosed him as a pedophile.

The third said Olsen displayed sexually deviant behavior, according to attorneys.

Based on the conclusion by the doctors that he would not be amenable to treatment, Judge Ingrid A. Uhler sentenced Olsen to five years in prison and recommended that he be housed at a state correctional facility with rigorous sex offender treatment programs such as the state's facility in San Luis Obispo.

"I was very pleased with the sentence because that's what we were seeking," Anderson said. "I really felt the judge made a fantastic record in terms of evaluating the reports and deciding, based upon the facts, what the law required -- which was a prison commitment."

Olsen's attorney, Gina Kershaw, said her client was devastated and had expected the judge to give him probation, in part because he had no prior offenses and because he took responsibility for his actions.

"We were pretty shocked," she said. What Olsen actually did was minimal, she said. "There was not the touching of private parts or anything like that, so I think it's a really harsh sentence.

"He is extremely remorseful for what happened," Kershaw said of her client. "The doctors seemed to think he was not amenable to treatment. He doesn't think that true. He wanted treatment."

Olsen, 29, must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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