Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has resolved four cases on behalf of students at North High School who were victims of sexual misconduct by an athletic equipment manager at the school.
The cases settled for a total of nearly $2 million.
Kern County Sheriff’s Office had arrested Edwin Rodriguez on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with minors 14 to 15 years old, exhibiting harmful matter to a minor, annoying a child under 18 and false imprisonment. He was sentenced to time served after pleading no contest to a charge of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a 14 or 15 year old, and ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to media reports.
Rodriguez resigned from North High in 2018 after a student reported receiving sexually explicit messages from him through social media. A school administrator notified the sheriff’s office, which determined Rodriguez sent inappropriate messages through Snapchat to at least eight juvenile students, and had sexual contact with several of them.
According to the victims, Rodriguez would give students sodas and candy, befriend them on the social media, and send them sexually explicit photos and videos, among other sexual misconduct that took place over several years. One of the women shared that the abuse first occurred when she was a sophomore in high school.
In one instance, Rodriguez sent a photo on Snapchat to two of the girls that showed him wearing shorts and a tank top and grabbing his penis. A number of text messages sent by Rodriguez to the girls told them he thought they were “hot” or commented on various parts of their body he found attractive.
Rodriguez “groomed” the victims, Chain | Cohn | Stiles personal injury attorney David Cohn, who represented the victims and their families, told local media. To see full media coverage of the lawsuits and criminal cases of Rodriguez, please see the links below.
The mother of one of the victims has also spoken out.
“This sick man manipulated my daughter. She and I are very close, but she felt she was doing something wrong and was afraid to tell me about it,” said the mother of one of the victims in a statement. “My hope through this lawsuit is to prevent this from happening in the future, and to protect our students through better accountability and scrutiny of school officials.”
“I think all the markers were out there,” Cohn told KGET-17.
Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys and the parents of the victims advise other parents to talk to their children about boundaries with those authority.
“Take this opportunity to have a discussion with your teenager,” Cohn said. “Students should never have one-on-one conversations through social media or text messages with school personnel, coaches, or other adults in authority. And encourage them to speak up if someone in authority contacts them privately or crosses a line.”
OTHER MISCONDUCT CASES
Chain | Cohn | Stiles also resolved several lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual assault by a Kern County Juvenile Corrections officer while they were housed at James G. Bowels Juvenile Hall. Settlements of $200,000, $250,000, and $400,000 were reached with the County of Kern on behalf of the victims, respectively. The final settlement was reached recently after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the victim, a Chain | Cohn | Stiles plaintiff, who had alleged that in 2015 corrections officer George Anderson made sexual comments to her, groomed her for sexual abuse, propositioned her for sex and watched her shower. The appeals court found that the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California erred in its 2016 decision and reversed it.
In another case, a former McFarland High School basketball coach pleaded no contest to contacting a teenager to commit a sex act. Fernando Pruneda faces two years in prison and sex offender registration after pleading no contest to the felony. Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which represents the teenager and family, said the civil matter can proceed now that the criminal case has been resolved. “Fernando Pruneda attempted to sell a position on the varsity basketball team in exchange for sex, and this disgusting and abhorrent conduct deserved to be charged as a felony,” Clark said in media reports. “We congratulate the Kern County District Attorney’s Office for their perseverance in securing this plea deal. This case is an example of how sexual predators groom their young prey, and that high school personnel, if it were paying attention, would have been aware of this conduct.” According to court documents, Pruneda tried to get sexual favors from a junior varsity basketball player. The boy told detectives Pruneda massaged him — as well as other players — below the waist. When the boy resisted or told Pruneda to stop, the coach told him “you won’t get varsity,” according to the documents. The boy also told investigators Pruneda forced him to sleep in the same bed with him during away tournaments. When deputies questioned Pruneda about inappropriate text messages he sent the boy, Pruneda told them he was just joking around. Pruneda coached boys’ basketball for 15 years and helped coach baseball.
What to do in a sexual abuse / assault case
Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline, or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. The sooner you get in touch with someone, the sooner justice can be served.
See a doctor: Seek immediate medical care following a rape or sexual abuse. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations, and they often have someone on staff that can help with stress.
Contact at attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a sexual assault and abuse lawyer.
SETTLEMENT MEDIA COVERAGE
- Lawsuit filed in connection with 7th minor allegedly preyed upon by ex-North High employee (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 4, 2021)
CLAIM FILING MEDIA COVERAGE
- Nuevas alegaciones de conducta sexual inapropiada contra ex-empleado escolar (Telemundo Valle Central – March 7, 2019)
- More lawsuits filed in connection with North High employee accused of sexual contact with students (The Bakersfield Californian – March 6, 2019)
- Three more North High students sue equipment manager (KBAK-29, CBS – BakerfieldNow – March 6, 2019)
- Claim against North HS alleges school did not do enough to protect students from accused sex abuser (KGET-17, NBC – March 6, 2019)
- Lawsuit Alleges Kern High School District Staff ‘Conspired To Cover Up’ Sexual Assault Allegations (Valley Public Radio – March 8, 2019)
- Kern High School District Knew Staff Member Was Sex Abuser, Lawsuits Allege (Valley Public Radio – April 30, 2019)
CRIMINAL CASE MEDIA COVERAGE
- North High employee suspected of sexual contact with multiple students (The Bakersfield Californian – Feb. 20, 2019) (online version here)
- North High School employee charged with sexual misconduct involving students (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 20, 2019) (online version here)
- Court docs detail allegations against North High equipment manager involving multiple students (KERO-23, ABC – Feb. 20, 2019)
- North High equipment manager arrested for lewd acts with a minor (KERO-23, ABC – Feb. 20, 2019)
- North High staff member accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, pleads not guilty (KGET-17, NBC – Feb. 21)
- Edwin Rodriguez pleads not guilty to charges of inappropriate contact with minors (The Bakersfield Californian – Feb. 21, 2019)
- North High athletic equipment manager resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations (The Bakersfield Californian – June 13, 2019)
- Preliminary hearing postponed two months for former North High equipment manager accused of engaging in sex acts with minors (KGET-17, NBC – July 16, 2020)
- Former North High athletic equipment manager to appear in court in October (The Bakersfield Californian – July 16, 2020)
- High school equipment manager sentenced to time served (Eyewitness News, KBAK/KBFX – Dec. 18, 2020)
- Former North High athletic trainer Edwin Rodriguez sentenced to 3 years (23ABC, Dec. 18, 2020)
- Former North High employee sentenced to time served after pleading no contest to sex act with underage student (KGET-17, NBC – Dec. 18, 2020)