Center for Children worker pleads not guilty to molestation char - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Center for Children worker pleads not guilty to molestation charges

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former assistant principal at a Kearny Mesa school for troubled children pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 14 felony charges, including unlawful sexual intercourse and rape by a foreign object, involving a sexual relationship he allegedly had with a 16-year-old female student.

Kettrell Berry, 49, who worked for nine years at the San Diego Center for Children before being fired last month, was ordered held on $150,000 bail. He faces more than 11 years in state prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo.

The alleged victim established a bond with the defendant, who would counsel her, meet her after school and listen to her problems, the prosecutor said.

"Over the course of that relationship, they began hugging at the end of these meetings, (and) it turned sexual," Palermo alleged outside the courtroom.

Palermo said Berry would pull the girl out of class to meet with him on campus. Faculty members noticed that the interaction between the two was more than the normal teacher/student situation and started watching more closely, at one point noticing Berry and the alleged victim going into an unlit room, the prosecutor said.

When interviewed, Berry denied the sexual relationship but the student admitted that she and Berry had been involved since January, Palermo told reporters.

The prosecutor said the girl started at the school last December, and she and the defendant became friends a month later. Palermo said the student turned 16 in mid-March and the alleged relationship with Berry continued until April 12.

The girl said she enjoyed the attention Berry was giving her, Palermo said.

"He preyed upon exactly what those children are there to be protected from." the prosecutor alleged. "She's very vulnerable. He exploited that given his position of trust."

Berry's attorney, James Pokorny, said his client, a former Marine, father, athlete and track coach, is an asset to the community.

Pokorny said Berry was "stunned" and "flabbergasted" when officers arrested him Friday.

"It's tough, it's tough," Pokorny said outside court.

Berry admitted being affectionate toward all the 65-70 children at the school, but adamantly denied having a sexual relationship with the alleged victim, Pokorny said.

In addition to rape with a foreign object and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, Berry is charged with committing a lewd act on a child, oral copulation and penetration by a foreign object.

A readiness conference was set for May 29 and a preliminary hearing for July 10.


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