Los Angeles

Retired Drama Teacher's Molestation Trial Begins

A retired Sycamore Junior High School drama teacher molested five of his students over a period of about 15 years, a prosecutor alleged Thursday, but the defendant's attorney claimed his client's accusers were lying to win money in civil lawsuits.

David Michael Bruce, 68, of Anaheim, is charged with 10 counts of committing lewd acts on minors. Bruce, as the drama teacher, "spent a lot of time with these students," said Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer. The alleged victims attended the Anaheim school from 1996-98; 1997- 2000; 2002-04; 2007-09; and 2009-11, according to the prosecutor.

Bruce is accused of "starting" with massages and then escalating the molestation, according to Zimmer, who said the defendant would take the students back to his residence and to tapings at Los Angeles studios.

"He would tell them he had Hollywood connections" and could help them get jobs in the film industry, Zimmer said.

"The defendant basically has an obsession with male buttocks," he said, noting that the allegations include "a lot of rubbing, touching and sparking the buttocks of these victims."

Police allegedly found erotic photos of young boys in the teacher's residence. Other evidence includes a recorded phone call investigators had one of the alleged victims make to Bruce, in which he allegedly admitted lewd acts, Zimmer said.

One of the boys was a special education student who would "hang out" with his teacher at lunch, according to the prosecutor, who said the educator gave the boy gifts such as an iPod and skateboard. One of the alleged victims confided in his sister, "who actually is the reason this whole investigation got started," Zimmer said.

When the sister was enrolling her own child at the school years later, she asked if Bruce was still working there. When she was told he had retired, she said she was pleased because he "molested" her brother, Zimmer said. A custodian at the school is expected to testify he "walked in on the defendant massaging a student," Zimmer said.

Bruce's attorney, Sal Ciulla, said the accusers were not telling the truth. One of the boys "has a history of psychiatric issues," Ciulla said. "He's fantasized about these things for so long he doesn't even remember where fantasy ends and reality begins," the defense attorney said.

Another alleged victim "has a long history of dishonesty" over a decade, Ciulla said.

"What you're going to see is a mixed bag with all of these people," he said. "The why is money," Ciulla said. "Three of these five alleged victims have filed lawsuits, with more to come."

The lawsuits are against Bruce and the "deeper pockets" of Anaheim Union High School District, Ciulla said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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