John Cádiz Klemack, Tommy Bravo
The sister of Robert Pimentel, a former fourth-grade teacher accused of molesting students, spoke out in his defense Tuesday as he pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of molestation. His sister said he is being falsely accused. John Cádiz Klemack reports from Long Beach for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 28, 2013.
A former Wilmington elementary school teacher pleaded not guilty Tuesday to several charges he sexually abused students, effectively pushing the case to trial.
Robert Pimentel taught fourth grade at George De La Torre Elementary School in Wilmington. He was removed from the classroom in March 2012 when the investigation began, according to police and the school district.
He began working for the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1974.
Pimentel was arrested Jan. 23 by the Los Angeles Police Department's Juvenile Division, and remains jailed on $12 million bail.
Speaking to the media for the first time, the former teacher’s sister supported her sibling and called the accusations against him “nothing short of a witch hunt.”
Lily Pimentel-Stratton said that as a Latino male, her brother is vulnerable.
"It's one thing when a female teacher strokes or hugs a child, that's perfectly acceptable and permitted,” she said. “But when a male teacher decides to put a hand on a shoulder or around a shoulder or comfort a child or reward a child or praise a child, it's immediately looked up as suspicion and something negative."
During a preliminary hearing, the stories of two of the 12 alleged victims were thrown out. Pimentel’s attorney said he believes the remaining 10 allegations are the product of coaching to make money and possibly fix immigration statuses for the alleged victims’ families.
“It’s gonna be a cold day in hell when you get to take a man’s freedom away so that a bunch of lawyers can make a profit,” attorney Joseph Yanny said.
An attorney representing three of the 10 remaining children in the case against Pimentel said Yanny is “totally baseless in his allegations.”
Attorney Luis Carillo said his Pasadena office did not receive a call until after Pimentel was arrested in January, nearly a year after the latest allegations surfaced.
"It's a fabrication on the part of the Defense attorney to allege that the kids are motivated by something other than the truth," Carillo said.
Now, it will be up to a jury to decide “the truth.”
A pretrial in the case is scheduled to start June 25. The trial could begin as early as July.