O.C. investigation of L.A. teacher in abuse case to be reopened
This story has been corrected. See note below.
An Orange County investigation into a former Los Angeles elementary school teacher is being reopened after the man was charged with molesting a dozen students at a Wilmington grade school.
The earlier investigation into the relations between Robert Pimentel and four youths – one from Newport Beach, three from Long Beach – was dropped because of “insufficient evidence, lack of corroboration, problems with the availability of witnesses and other evidentiary issues," the Orange County district attorney’s office said.
But in light of Pimentel’s arrest, the case will now be forwarded to the Los Angeles County district attorney.
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the Orange County district attorney’s office, said prosecutors in L.A. had requested that they handle “all of our charges as well as their charges.” No details of the earlier Orange County investigation were made public.
Pimentel’s attorney, Richard Knickerbocker, said the former teacher is “absolutely innocent” and cautioned that the accusations are just that.
The Newport Beach resident and former youth soccer coach is being held on $12-million bail. He is charged with molesting a dozen elementary school students in 2011 and 2012, though Los Angeles police allege there are a total of 20 child victims and one adult.
Schroeder said Newport Beach detectives first submitted a case involving the four children in 2005 and that her office twice returned the case to police for further investigation. Ultimately, it was decided not to file charges, she said.
Pimentel volunteered for AYSO for six years as a referee and about one year as a coach in the Newport Beach area. He was suspended last March after he told the soccer organization that he was under investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Although neither the district nor law enforcement contacted AYSO at the time, Pimentel's volunteer privileges were suspended immediately after the league learned of the investigation, as is standard any time allegations arise, he said.
"AYSO takes this very, very seriously, and when any type of a concern of this sort comes up, it is addressed," Passantino said. "It's not casting judgment, but we're making sure those kids are safe. You've got 500,000 kids. That's a big responsibility, and we're proud of the reputation we have in that arena."
No players or parents have reported abuse by Pimentel to AYSO, but the league is encouraging players' parents to contact authorities if they have any relevant information. In the statement, the league also said it is "prepared to work closely" with law enforcement, should that become necessary.
[Updated, Saturday, 1 p.m.: This story initially said that Pimentel coached youth soccer for seven years. He volunteered for AYSO as a referee for six years and as a coach for about a year.]
--Jill Cowan and Richard Winton
Photo: Robert Pimentel in court Thursday. Credit: Associated Press.