Chain | Cohn | Stiles resolves several cases involving misconduct at North High School

March 9, 2021 | 3:29 pm


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

CLAIM FILING MEDIA COVERAGE

CRIMINAL CASE MEDIA COVERAGE

McFarland basketball coach sentenced in sexual misconduct case; Chain | Cohn | Stiles civil case for victim is ongoing

October 28, 2020 | 5:00 am


A former McFarland High basketball coach has been sentenced to state prison after he promised a 15-year-old boy a spot on the varsity team in exchange for sexual favors.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is representing the victim in his sexual misconduct civil case.

Fernando Pruneda was sentenced to two years in prison for the charge of contacting a minor to commit a sexual offense after pleading no contest. He must also register as a sex offender.

An investigation into the high school coach was launched after a McFarland High School sophomore reported inappropriate sexual contact with the coach. According to court documents, Pruneda repeatedly contacted the boy via text message.

Pruneda offered to take him to a basketball tournament in Nevada. Pruneda told the boy not to say anything to anyone, and to inform his parents that the whole team is going. He also informed the boy that they would have to share a bed. He would also tell the boy to erase the messages between the two. According to court documents, Pruneda began to offer the boy massages after practice. Pruneda called the boy out of class to give him a massage.

Kern County Sheriff’s Office detectives became involved after meeting with the victim and his mother, and texted Pruneda in place of the victim to arrange a meeting. They arrested him at the meeting location.

The civil case is ongoing.

 

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT LAWSUITS

Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been involved in several lawsuits in recent years in representing victims of sexual abuse and sex assault:

  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles filed a lawsuit against the Wasco Union High School District on behalf of a student who was the victim of sexual misconduct by an assistant football coach at the high school. Miguel Nicholas Saldana pleaded no contest to sending sexually explicit messages to the student, was sentenced to six months in jail, must perform 720 hours of community service and register as a sex offender.
  • Our attorneys filed lawsuits in federal court against the County of Kern and a juvenile corrections officer on behalf of a young woman who was sexually abused at juvenile hall. The lawsuit was settled recently for $250,000.
  • Our lawyers also filed claims on behalf of several students who were victims of sexual misconduct at North High School. Kern County Sheriff’s Office has 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.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles represented Karen Frye, who was sexually molested at Lerdo Jail by a Kern County Sheriff’s Department detentions deputy. The law firm filed suit against the county for civil rights violations, conspiracy, sexual assault and battery, negligence, fraud, breach of contract and excessive use of force. The department also attempted to “buy off” Frye by offering her $1,500 in exchange for her agreement to not sue the department. That case settled for $300,000.
  • We represented a woman who was sexually assaulted by Kern County deputy Gabriel Lopez in her home in Tehachapi. Lopez sexually assaulted at least two other people as well. He pleaded no contest to two counts of assault by a public officer, two counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of sexual battery, and was sentenced to two years in prison. Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys also represented a 79-year-old woman who called the sheriff’s office during a dispute with her husband, who was diagnosed with late-stage Alzheimer’s. She, too, was sexually assaulted by Lopez in a similar fashion to his other victims. The third victim was quietly paid $5,000 by the department, and was unable to bring a civil claim. In addition, the partners at Chain | Cohn | Stiles penned a “Community Voices” article, calling on the County of Kern to cease practices that call for confidential settlements in lawsuits pertaining to victims of sexual assault, as well as paying “hush money” to those victims.

A new law in California allows victims of childhood sexual assault more time to file lawsuits, and seek justice. Assembly Bill 218 gives victims of childhood sexual abuse either until age 40 or five years from discovery of the abuse to file civil lawsuits. The previous limit had been 26, or within three years from discovery of the abuse. It also allows victims of all ages three years to bring claims that would have otherwise been barred due to existing statutes.

Here’s what you can do if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abused:

  • Call for help: Always call the police, a rape hotline or both following any form of sexual assault or abuse. This can be difficult to do, but 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 scenario. Hospitals often have specialists trained to help in these types of situations and they often have someone on staff that can help with the stress.
  • Contact an attorney: After you have taken all the aforementioned steps, contact a legal professional, who has understanding of sexual abuse law.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault and is seeking resources, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

———

———

MEDIA COVERAGE