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Students surprise

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 6:45pm

Rocky Lopez thought he was responding to a routine call at Los Primeros School of Sciences and Arts in Camarillo on Friday when he was called to the auditorium to clean up a mess made during an assembly.

The school’s custodian of eight years instead took center stage when students surprised him by dumping a bucket of his favorite candy on top of him seconds after he entered the building.

“Something wasn’t adding up because everyone was quiet and all eyes were on me,” Lopez said. “I think it really set in when I felt the candy wash over me.”

More than 200 students participated in the flash mob-like surprise to show Lopez how much students, parents and staff members appreciated him.

The surprise was organized by student leaders and Ventura-based clothing company and charity “Dude. be nice,” which sponsors programs to help students honor unsung heroes in their communities. This was the company’s first such event at a middle school.

Lopez, who has worked for the Pleasant Valley School District for 33 years, was selected by students in the Associated Student Body and the Builders Club.

“We’re lucky that we have a lot of great people at our school, but Rocky really stood out,” said ASB Co-President Allison Martinez.

Lopez’s happy energy, infectious humor and genuine concern for others have spread to countless students over the years, she said.

“At lunch, he doesn’t just pick up trash. He makes a point to stop by every table to make people smile,” Allison said. “He jokes, gives compliments and sings. He has even sang ‘Frozen’ songs to cheer people up.”

Amid the theme song from “Rocky,” students waved signs and broke into a loud “We love Rocky” chant Friday. Lopez gave a thumbs-up before students swarmed him in a giant group hug.

Lopez, 58, said students have always treated him like family.

“I tell students that it’s not about how many awards you have in life. It’s your character that really counts. It’s what’s in here,” said Lopez, pointing to his heart.

In planning for the surprise, students learned Lopez loves chocolate candy cars, the San Francisco 49ers and his family.

In attendance Friday were his granddaughter Mya Lopez, a second-grader at the school, and the New York Giants’ Adam Snyder, who played for eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

Snyder presented Lopez with a signed football with thank-you signatures from students.

Brent Camalich, founder of “Dude. be nice,” said he believes Friday’s act of kindness will encourage students to continue spreading kindheartedness.

“Our goal was to make Rocky feel appreciated,” Camalich said. “These kids stepped up and made this day for him memorable.”

Christine Schweers, ASB adviser, reached out to Camalich after learning about the nonprofit online and Rocky immediately came to mind.

Whether students had a rough night or are having a difficult morning, they can always count on Lopez to cheer them up with a warm smile, Schweers said.

“I’ve been teaching for 20 years. I’ve never met a friendlier person,” she said. “It’s as if every day is Friday for him.”

Jury returns guilty verdict in 1979 slaying

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 6:35pm

A jury on Friday found a Bakersfield man guilty of raping, stabbing and shooting an Oxnard woman 35 years ago and leaving her body in a shallow grave.

After about a day of deliberation, a jury unanimously found John Clark Russell, 65, guilty of first-degree murder of 23-year-old Alma Zuniga. Authorities found Zuniga’s naked body on March 11, 1979, in a shallow grave in an agricultural field in the 3400 block of North Rose Avenue in El Rio.

Russell will be sentenced Jan. 21.

The case remained cold for more than three decades until the Ventura County sheriff’s cold-case homicide task force re-examined DNA evidence in 2005, officials said. A check with the Combined DNA Index System, a databank that contains DNA profiles of people arrested across the United States, matched the DNA collected from Zuniga’s crime scene with Russell, authorities said.

Jurors also found true a special allegation that Russell used a deadly weapon, a knife, during the murder. They also found true a special circumstance that the murder was committed deliberately during a kidnapping and/or during a rape.

Prosecutor Maeve Fox said during the trial that DNA evidence showed Russell stabbed, raped and shot Zuniga. But Bartley Brown of the county Public Defender’s Office called the decades-old DNA evidence “decrepit” and said there were three or more different DNA samples collected from Zuniga’s body.

Russell, dressed in a black suit, remained quiet as the court clerk read the verdict. Zuniga’s family members wept in the audience as the verdict was read out loud.

Zuniga’s son, Jaime, said he was about a year and a half old when his mother was killed. He hugged and thanked each juror outside the courtroom.

“I feel in my gut and soul he did this to my mother,” he said, wiping away tears. “I feel a sense of relief. It’s not really closure. There is still that empty space. My mother was a beautiful woman.”

Jury returns guilty verdict in 1979 slaying

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 6:35pm

A jury on Friday found a Bakersfield man guilty of raping, stabbing and shooting an Oxnard woman 35 years ago and leaving her body in a shallow grave.

After about a day of deliberation, a jury unanimously found John Clark Russell, 65, guilty of first-degree murder of 23-year-old Alma Zuniga. Authorities found Zuniga’s naked body on March 11, 1979, in a shallow grave in an agricultural field in the 3400 block of North Rose Avenue in El Rio.

Russell will be sentenced Jan. 21.

The case remained cold for more than three decades until the Ventura County sheriff’s cold-case homicide task force re-examined DNA evidence in 2005, officials said. A check with the Combined DNA Index System, a databank that contains DNA profiles of people arrested across the United States, matched the DNA collected from Zuniga’s crime scene with Russell, authorities said.

Jurors also found true a special allegation that Russell used a deadly weapon, a knife, during the murder. They also found true a special circumstance that the murder was committed deliberately during a kidnapping and/or during a rape.

Prosecutor Maeve Fox said during the trial that DNA evidence showed Russell stabbed, raped and shot Zuniga. But Bartley Brown of the county Public Defender’s Office called the decades-old DNA evidence “decrepit” and said there were three or more different DNA samples collected from Zuniga’s body.

Russell, dressed in a black suit, remained quiet as the court clerk read the verdict. Zuniga’s family members wept in the audience as the verdict was read out loud.

Zuniga’s son, Jaime, said he was about a year and a half old when his mother was killed. He hugged and thanked each juror outside the courtroom.

“I feel in my gut and soul he did this to my mother,” he said, wiping away tears. “I feel a sense of relief. It’s not really closure. There is still that empty space. My mother was a beautiful woman.”

Bank Bailouts Approach a Final Reckoning

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 19, 2014 - 6:25pm
The U.S. government closed a chapter in financial-crisis history when it sold its remaining shares of Ally Financial and shuttered its auto-bailout program, ending the last major pieces of a $426 billion rescue package.

5 reportedly injured in Oxnard crash

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 6:08pm

Five people were reportedly injured in a two-vehicle traffic collision on Highway 101 Friday in Oxnard, officials said.

California Highway Patrol reported the crash about 5:20 p.m. on southbound Highway 101 near the Oxnard Boulevard exit.

Crews on scene reported five people were injured in the crash. Three people suffered minor injuries and at least two others were being taken to Ventura County Medical Center.

More than one ambulance was sent to the scene, officials said.

Pain Remains for Cuban-Americans in Congress

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 19, 2014 - 6:06pm
Many politicians see U.S.-Cuba relations as an obsolete preoccupation of the Cold War. But for a small cadre of Cuban-Americans in Congress, it is a personal, painful and urgent concern.

Oxnard College president retiring in June

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 5:35pm

Richard Duran, the president of Oxnard College for nearly eight years, will retire in June.

“It’s time for me to move on,” Duran said Friday. “I don’t want to wear out my welcome. And my wife really wants to go home.”

Duran, 65, plans to move to Colorado, where he was born and much of his family still lives. He intends to rest for a while, then teach, do consulting work or volunteer, he said.

“I want to contribute back to my home community,” said Duran, who grew up in Pueblo and hopes to return there. “I want to take my experience and knowledge and go back to my hometown.”

The Ventura County Community College District will find an interim president to serve for a year while a search firm looks for Duran’s permanent successor, said Chancellor Jamillah Moore.

“I think that’s about what we can do in the time we’ve got,” Moore said.

Duran’s contract was recently extended for two years, but he decided not to stay, he said.

Duran is the third college president to leave the district recently. The presidents of the district’s other two colleges, Moorpark and Ventura, left in 2013.

Greg Gillespie took over at Ventura College in July 2013, and Moorpark College is about to get a new president after having an interim one for more than a year.

“It’s good for an organization to have new leadership — someone with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective, who can bring the college to the next level,” Duran said.

Duran led Oxnard during a difficult time of budget cuts and accreditation problems. Throughout that time, he maintained grace under intense pressure, said Dianne McKay, chairwoman of the district board.

“I appreciate that he never lost his temper,” McKay said. “He talked quietly in a measured way. He would stand by his decisions gracefully but with strength.”

Duran also oversaw the build out of the campus, which included a performing arts center, student services center and new library. And his time in Oxnard ended a period of turnover in leadership, said Trustee Stephen Blum.

“He came in and brought stability to the school,” Blum said. “It’s growing again.”

What's Navajo for 'Clownfish'?

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 19, 2014 - 5:27pm
Tribe’s adaptation of animated movie classic seeks to revive use of native language among young members.

Crews respond to small fire outside Simi home

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 5:26pm

Crews responded to a small fire outside a home Friday in Simi Valley, officials said.

The fire was reported at 4 p.m. in the 2600 block of Bancock Street.

The blaze extended to the eaves of the house but crews were able to quickly extinguish the flames, officials said.

Crews work to secure gas line in Santa Paula

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 5:16pm

Crews on Friday morning secured a gas line break at Santa Paula High School, officials said.

The incident was reported about 8:15 a.m. in the 400 block of North Sixth Street, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

A construction vehicle severed a gas line at a construction site at the school. Gas company crews responded, and people at the school were asked to stay indoors during the incident.

Ventura County pet of the week: Bella

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 5:01pm

Bella is a perfect girl, according to the shelter officials, who call her a sweet­heart, plain and simple, and just wonder­ful. She loves being with her people, loves her walks and loves being cuddled. She is a happy and silly girl who is easy­going and great on a leash. She gets excited about treats, but would rather be praised and hugged. You can adopt ­Bella, ­A605094, at the Ventura County animal shelter, 600 Aviation Drive in Cama­rillo. The shelter is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Call 388-4341 or visit http://­www.­vcas.­us for more ­information.

Ventura County pet of the week: Bella

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 5:01pm

Bella is a perfect girl, according to the shelter officials, who call her a sweet­heart, plain and simple, and just wonder­ful. She loves being with her people, loves her walks and loves being cuddled. She is a happy and silly girl who is easy­going and great on a leash. She gets excited about treats, but would rather be praised and hugged. You can adopt ­Bella, ­A605094, at the Ventura County animal shelter, 600 Aviation Drive in Cama­rillo. The shelter is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Call 388-4341 or visit http://­www.­vcas.­us for more ­information.

Authorities identify Oxnard homicide victim

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 5:00pm

Authorities on Friday identified a 35-year-old man shot to death Monday in Oxnard.

Humberto Ochoa Velazquez, of Oxnard, was found shot in the 700 block of South Oxnard Boulevard about 1:30 a.m. No one had been arrested in the case.

He was taken to Ventura County Medical Center and later died.

The Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office was having trouble notifying Velazquez’s relatives in Mexico.

A woman called 911 several minutes after the shooting to report she had also been shot, police said. She was taken to St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard with a serious gunshot wound to her leg that was not life-threatening and was eventually released, police said.

Witnesses told Oxnard police a man walked up to a group of a people in a parking lot and shot Velazquez multiple times as he talked to friends. The woman, a 35-year-old from out of state, was shot as she tried to run away, police said.

Velazquez’s death was the second of three fatal shootings in Oxnard this week. David Lara, 28, and Jose Sainz, 31, were also killed, and no arrests had been made.

Authorities identify Oxnard homicide victim

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 5:00pm

Authorities on Friday identified a 35-year-old man shot to death Monday in Oxnard.

Humberto Ochoa Velazquez, of Oxnard, was found shot in the 700 block of South Oxnard Boulevard about 1:30 a.m. No one had been arrested in the case.

He was taken to Ventura County Medical Center and later died.

The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office was having trouble notifying Velazquez's relatives in Mexico.

A woman called 911 several minutes after the shooting to report she had also been shot, police said. She was taken to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard with a serious gunshot wound to her leg that was not life-threatening and was eventually released, police said.

Witnesses told Oxnard police a man walked up to a group of a people in a parking lot and shot Velazquez multiple times as he talked to friends. The woman, a 35-year-old from out of state, was shot as she tried to run away, police said.

Velazquez's death was the second of three fatal shootings in Oxnard this week. David Lara, 28, and Jose Sainz, 31, were also killed, and no arrests had been made.

Hiring up as wage growth stalls

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 5:00pm

Strong gains in state and local hiring last month were reported Friday by the state Employment Development Department, but wage stagnation remains a concern as 2014 winds down.

Ventura County’s unemployment rate was 6.5 percent last month, down from 7.2 percent in November 2013 as employers added 5,400 nonfarm jobs to their payrolls. The county’s nonfarm job growth rate was 1.9 percent, which is slower than the statewide growth rate of 2.3 percent. The county is 6,000 jobs below its pre-recession peak, in seasonally adjusted terms.

“The November report shows the continuation of a strengthening labor market in Ventura County led mostly by the professional and business services sector of the economy,” said Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast in Santa Barbara. “Because this sector includes a wide range of occupations and job types, it symbolizes that the greater economy of Ventura County continues to grow.”

California added 90,100 nonfarm payroll jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent, compared with 8.4 percent in November 2013.

California enjoyed the largest monthly gain in nonfarm jobs of any state in the U.S. and was just behind Texas on a year-over-year basis with 334,100 jobs added. But its unemployment rate remains well above the 5.8 percent national rate, the second highest in the country. The state and nation also continue to rely heavily on temporary labor, and many of the gained jobs are low-paying.

“That continues to be the sore spot in this picture,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The Bay Area remains California’s job growth leader. Southern California is in recovery mode and the Los Angeles area has almost recovered all the jobs lost in the recession. The Inland Empire and Orange County led the Southern California region with job gains of 2.2 percent year over year.

The state’s job market is now strong enough to help a growing number of residents who dropped out of the workforce during the recession, said Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.

“This is good news for the holiday season and the year ahead,” he said.

Boy drafted onto Oaks Christian soccer team

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 4:31pm

Ben Hillard, 10, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor more than six years ago, was "drafted" as an honorary member of Oaks Christian School's varsity boys soccer team during a special event for him.

The entire team and coach Greg Dmitrowicz welcomed Ben with cheers and high-fives as he arrived at their practice Thursday.

Team members Jack Cybulski, 16, and Micah Heimbuch, 17, served as Ben's "agents" and signed a contract, which officially made him a member of the team.

Ben received many gifts, including a signed soccer ball and a replica uniform with the numeral 1 on it, as a show of appreciation from the team and the school.

"It's awesome," Ben said after being named to the team and joining the players for practice.

Ben now will attend practices, games and other team-related events throughout the season, although he will not play soccer because of a brain injury caused by the tumor.

Ben became a member of the team through MVP Sports Draft, a free program offered by Cancer Fit Inc., a nonprofit based in Newbury Park that was started by cancer survivors Robb and Elle Bolton.

Robb Bolton said the purpose of the program is to match Southern California childhood cancer survivors and their siblings with a high school or college sports team for a season.

Participants in the free program may come from a variety of backgrounds but share the fact that they are battling or have recently battled cancer.

Bolton said the program creates a "win-win opportunity" as the teams provide the children with friendship, support and a positive outlet during their fight against cancer or on the road to recovery.

"This interaction greatly improves the quality of life for the childhood cancer survivor. The teams benefit as they receive impactful and often lasting relationships with the children and their families while also helping to build awareness about pediatric cancer with their community," Bolton said.

A child also was recently matched through the program with the Oaks Christian varsity boys baseball team, and another will be matched this spring with varsity girls softball team. Children also will be matched with teams at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA.

Jan Hethcock, athletic director for Oaks Christian, welcomed Ben, his parents, Lynne and Ron Hillard, and his sisters, Chloe and Sophia, to the school.

"It's a great opportunity for Ben and a great opportunity for us," said Hethcock, who led a prayer before Ben was signed to the team and named Ben honorary captain.

Lynne Hillard said Ben has been a "warrior" since he was diagnosed and going through his first of many surgeries starting at age 4. He has suffered many seizures and has undergone 15 months of chemotherapy since the tumor started growing again.

Hillard said Ben played soccer before his tumor diagnosis, and this opportunity allows him to hang out with the team of "brothers he has always wanted."

"This program is special, especially when he has to face so many medical visits and appointments. It can be draining," she said. "It's nice that he will have something to look forward to."

As Ben's agents, Cybulski and Heimbuch are tasked with keeping in touch with Ben and his family and making sure he is taken care of at the school.

"It's awesome that we can help out and he can be part of our team," Cybulski before escorting Ben to the soccer field. "We're excited to have him here."

Boy drafted onto Oaks Christian soccer team

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 4:31pm

Ben Hillard, 10, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor more than six years ago, was “drafted” as an honorary member of Oaks Christian School’s varsity boys soccer team during a special event for him.

The entire team and coach Greg Dmitrowicz welcomed Ben with cheers and high-fives as he arrived at their practice Thursday.

Team members Jack Cybulski, 16, and Micah Heimbuch, 17, served as Ben’s “agents” and signed a contract, which officially made him a member of the team.

 

Ben received many gifts, including a signed soccer ball and a replica uniform with the numeral 1 on it, as a show of appreciation from the team and the school.

“It’s awesome,” Ben said after being named to the team and joining the players for practice.

Ben now will attend practices, games and other team-related events throughout the season, although he will not play soccer because of a brain injury caused by the tumor.

Ben became a member of the team through MVP Sports Draft, a free program offered by Cancer Fit Inc., a nonprofit based in Newbury Park that was started by cancer survivors Robb and Elle Bolton.

Robb Bolton said the purpose of the program is to match Southern California childhood cancer survivors and their siblings with a high school or college sports team for a season.

Participants in the free program may come from a variety of backgrounds but share the fact that they are battling or have recently battled cancer.

Bolton said the program creates a “win-win opportunity” as the teams provide the children with friendship, support and a positive outlet during their fight against cancer or on the road to recovery.

“This interaction greatly improves the quality of life for the childhood cancer survivor. The teams benefit as they receive impactful and often lasting relationships with the children and their families while also helping to build awareness about pediatric cancer with their community,” Bolton said.

A child also was recently matched through the program with the Oaks Christian varsity boys baseball team, and another will be matched this spring with varsity girls softball team. Children also will be matched with teams at UC Santa Barbara and UCLA.

Jan Hethcock, athletic director for Oaks Christian, welcomed Ben, his parents, Lynne and Ron Hillard, and his sisters, Chloe and Sophia, to the school.

“It’s a great opportunity for Ben and a great opportunity for us,” said Hethcock, who led a prayer before Ben was signed to the team and named Ben honorary captain.

Lynne Hillard said Ben has been a “warrior” since he was diagnosed and going through his first of many surgeries starting at age 4. He has suffered many seizures and has undergone 15 months of chemotherapy since the tumor started growing again.

Hillard said Ben played soccer before his tumor diagnosis, and this opportunity allows him to hang out with the team of “brothers he has always wanted.”

“This program is special, especially when he has to face so many medical visits and appointments. It can be draining,” she said. “It’s nice that he will have something to look forward to.”

As Ben’s agents, Cybulski and Heimbuch are tasked with keeping in touch with Ben and his family and making sure he is taken care of at the school.

“It’s awesome that we can help out and he can be part of our team,” Cybulski before escorting Ben to the soccer field. “We’re excited to have him here.”

Santa Paula men accused of countywide theft ring

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 4:26pm

Three Santa Paula men were arrested this month in connection with a countywide theft ring, Ventura County sheriff’s officials said Friday.

Investigators identified the suspects as Juan Castillo, 34, Michael Cantero, 30, and Esteban Oseguera, 25, authorities said.

Officials said they recovered stolen property from the suspects and believe the men were responsible for scores of vehicle thefts and stolen vehicles over the past six months.

Oseguera was arrested Dec. 8 when a deputy tried to stop a stolen vehicle in Ventura, officials said. The passenger ran from the vehicle and got away, but driver Oseguera was arrested on suspicion of auto theft and possession of stolen property, officials said. Investigators said they found numerous items that had been stolen from unlocked vehicles in Camarillo.

On Wednesday, authorities said, they stopped Castillo and Cantero as they left the Spanish Hills neighborhood of Camarillo. Investigators said they searched the car and found several items stolen from various unlocked vehicles in Spanish Hills. Property from vehicle thefts in Ojai, Ventura and Los Angeles reported the past few months was also recovered, officials said.

Cantero and Castillo were arrested on suspicion of various property and weapons charges. Both remained in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail each.

Officials said Cantero was on parole for attempted residential burglary and had recently bailed out of jail for a narcotics-related arrest. Castillo and Oseguera had been arrested on suspicion of similar charges in November, officials said, and both were out on bail pending trial.

Santa Paula men accused of countywide theft ring

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 19, 2014 - 4:26pm

Three Santa Paula men were arrested this month in connection with a countywide theft ring, Ventura County sheriff’s officials said Friday.

Investigators identified the suspects as Juan Castillo, 34, Michael Cantero, 30, and Esteban Oseguera, 25, authorities said.

Officials said they recovered stolen property from the suspects and believe the men were responsible for scores of vehicle thefts and stolen vehicles over the past six months.

Oseguera was arrested Dec. 8 when a deputy tried to stop a stolen vehicle in Ventura, officials said. The passenger ran from the vehicle and got away, but driver Oseguera was arrested on suspicion of auto theft and possession of stolen property, officials said. Investigators said they found numerous items that had been stolen from unlocked vehicles in Camarillo.

On Wednesday, authorities said, they stopped Castillo and Cantero as they left the Spanish Hills neighborhood of Camarillo. Investigators said they searched the car and found several items stolen from various unlocked vehicles in Spanish Hills. Property from vehicle thefts in Ojai, Ventura and Los Angeles reported the past few months was also recovered, officials said.

Cantero and Castillo were arrested on suspicion of various property and weapons charges. Both remained in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail each.

Officials said Cantero was on parole for attempted residential burglary and had recently bailed out of jail for a narcotics-related arrest. Castillo and Oseguera had been arrested on suspicion of similar charges in November, officials said, and both were out on bail pending trial.

Ex-teacher gets probation for 'sexting'

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 19, 2014 - 4:15pm

A former Oxnard Union High School District substitute teacher who pleaded guilty last month to felony luring and possession of child pornography was sentenced this week to five years’ probation.

Vanessa Tsakrios, 27, of Camarillo, appeared before Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bennett on Thursday. Tsakrios was involved in a “sexting relationship” with a student at Pacifica High School in Oxnard, where she was a substitute teacher, authorities said.

Prosecutor Catherine Voelker said Tsakrios encouraged the teen to text-message and call her on her cellphone. According to court records, the student was 17 at the time — from February to June 2012 — and Tsakrios was 24.

Bennett also imposed 120 days of jail time but stayed that decision pending a review from the county Probation Agency in six months. As part of her sentence, Tsakrios is required to register as a sex offender and stay away from the victim.

According to court records, Tsakrios sent the teen pictures of herself and said things like, “Your turn to send pics!” and “I’ll send you pictures if you send me pictures!”

The teen and Tsakrios then began sending “sexy” or nude pictures of themselves to each other, authorities said. Voelker said there was one incident when the student and Tsakrios kissed for about 15 seconds in a classroom.

The contact ended June 5, 2012, when the student reported Tsakrios to another teacher.

Ron Bamieh, Tsakrios’ attorney, said she had no criminal record. Bamieh said the 17-year-old student was not a victim and bragged to friends and even family members about his interaction with Tsakrios.

“They are treating her like a child molester when there was no victim here,” Bamieh said. The judge “did what he had to do under the law, but it’s frankly ridiculous and an abuse of the law.”

Voelker, however, said Tsakrios told probation officers she knew her interaction with the teen was inappropriate.

“I don’t think (Tsakrios) intends to minimize her culpability in the case and she recognizes she is the only person to blame for these incidents,” Voelker said. “It is not appropriate to blame a minor in a case where a defendant is charged with engaging in an inappropriate relationship with the minor. She was a mature woman who knew she was wrong.”

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