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.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Veteran local law enforcement officer, spokesman joins Chain | Cohn | Stiles as investigator

October 4, 2017 | 8:44 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles — the Bakersfield-based accident, injury and workers’ compensation law firm — has welcomed a new investigator to its team, and it’s a familiar face for Kern County.

Ray Pruitt, who served as a media spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office for nearly a decade, will be assisting in case development and management, and gathering vital evidence and information for personal injury cases at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Pruitt has nearly 25 years of law enforcement and investigative experience. He began his career in 1988 with the Bakersfield Police Department, worked as a private investigator for three years, and joined the Kern County Sheriff’s Office in 2001. He worked in the KCSO Crime Prevention Department and was the spokesman / public information officer for nearly eight years.

“I have lived my entire life in Kern County and have spent the last 25 years working to serve and protect the citizens of our great community,” Pruitt said. “I feel extremely fortunate to be a member of the Chain | Cohn | Stiles team, a law firm with a rich tradition of protecting the rights of and seeking justice for those who have been victimized.”

Pruitt grew up in Delano and graduated from McFarland High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from the University of Phoenix, a worker’s compensation law certificate from CSU Bakersfield. He has taught criminal justice classes at both the college and law enforcement academy level. Ray has testified as a criminal court expert in Kern County Superior Court, and is well known in the law enforcement and business community in Kern County.

He’s been married for 25 years, and has two adult children – a student at CSU Bakersfield the other a student Bakersfield College – as well as a grandson.

Pruitt joins an experienced personal injury department that includes partners David CohnMatt Clark and associate attorneys Tanya AlsheikhChad Boyles and Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller. Other attorneys on the law firm’s team include partner James Yoro and associate attorney Beatriz Trejo in the workers’ compensation department.

“Standing up for victims and helping them when they have been harmed by the actions of another person is something I am very passionate about,” Pruitt said. “I have spent the majority of my adult life working to help those who need help, and helping their families as well. Ultimately, helping people gain some sense of closure when they have been harmed due to the actions of another is what I am most looking forward to at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Pruitt was recently featured in the “People in Business” section of The Bakersfield Californian. See it here. 

Follow Pruitt on Facebook at Facebook.com/raypruittchaincohnstiles. And to learn more about Pruitt, visit the Chain | Cohn | Stiles website at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.