One of two boys sexually molested by a Pacoima elementary school teacher and who are now suing Los Angeles Unified told a jury Thursday that his assailant used candy combined with a nice demeanor to lure him into his trust.
The 14-year-old boy was identified to the Los Angeles Superior Court hearing trial of the case as Justin. He often paused to regain his composure as he answered questions about his experiences at the hands of Paul Chapel III, a former third-grade teacher at Telfair Elementary School.
Justin testified that Thursday he feels “mad, really sad, scared and disgusted” when he looks back at what happened to him during the period of 2010-11.
The boy said he was not one of Chapel’s students, but often visited the teacher during recess, lunch and after school. Justin said he had a love for candy and that Chapel had a full closet of sweets, including Airheads, Jelly Ranchers and Tree Tops.
“He was always nice and he gave me a lot of candy,” he said.
Justin said Chapel also let him work on one of the class computers.
The boy said Chapel abused him by first rubbing his stomach before he would move his hand down toward the boy’s private parts. Asked by his lawyer, Vince Finaldi, why he didn’t run out of the room when the molestations first started, he replied, “All I thought about was the candy.”
Justin said he eventually began to think about “escape routes,” but that Chapel would hold him tighter if he tried to leave. He said he was particularly disturbed when he experienced the bushy feel of Chapel’s goatee when the teacher kissed him in the mouth.
“I felt creeped out,” he said. “It was just weird.”
Asked by Finaldi if he regrets that he did not do more to avoid Chapel’s advances, Justin said, “Oh, yeah, I should have been smarter. I should have planned things out.”
The boy said he has flashbacks Thursday when he sees men in public who resemble Chapel, who was more than 6 feet tall and weighed about 350 pounds.
“I get really scared,” he said. Chapel was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison for molesting 13 boys over a roughly 4 1/2-year period. The LAUSD has admitted liability in the case and the trial is to determine the damages owed to Justin and a second plaintiff, identified as David, who is now 14. David was one of Chapel’s students.
The LAUSD previously reached a $5 million settlement with another group of former Telfair students in June 2014 and $4.42 million with three more former students in May.
— City News Service