MODESTO, CA - A former Enochs High School teacher, accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student, will go to trial in mid- July, a judge said Tuesday.
James Hooker made national headlines for his relationship with an 18-year-old student, Jordan Powers, earlier this year. During the publicity he received for that situation, another woman stepped forward to say she had had sex with Hooker in 1998 when she was just 17.
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Modesto judge Thomas Zeff said Tuesday the Hooker trial will start July 15, 2013. The trial is expected to last from one to three weeks, depending on jury selection.
Hooker's attorney, Mary Lynn Belsher, was very outspoken after Tuesday's hearing, blasting the prosecution, judge and news media for how they've behaved during Hooker's case.
"The judge refused to hear arguments on the statute of limitations and he refused to hear arguments on anything to do with why there was no probable cause," Belsher said while explaining why she will file to have the case dismissed.
"Ms. Owen (prosecutor Beth O'Hara Owen) withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. I can prove that, I will prove that," Belsher said, accusing her opponent of concealing evidence that could prove Hooker's evidence.
Even though Hooker himself seemed to enjoy the attention he received from local and national news agencies for his relationship with Powers, Belsher said "the pretrial publicity has destroyed his reputation. He can't find a job now. It's terrible."
Prosecutor Owen said Hooker will receive a fair trial, despite media attention, and she denied the accusation she held back evidence.
"There's been no withholding of evidence. Whatever comes into my office, will be discovered to her," said Owen.
By Tim Daly, TDdaly@news10.net