Ex-teacher guilty
Jason Abhyankar convicted of molesting 3 young students.

February 28, 2002

By GREG HARDESTY
The Orange County Register



FORMER TEACHER Jason Abhyankar reacts today in Superior Court as a jury finds him guilty of three charges of child molestation.



A former fourth-grade teacher was convicted Wednesday of molesting three male students, touching off applause from dozens of parents packed into a Santa Ana courtroom.

Jason Abhyankar, 27, groped and fondled the victims, ages 9 and 10, in his locked classroom between September 1998 and January 2000. He faces up to 24 years in prison.

"Now our kids can sleep at night," a mother said loudly as sheriff's deputies took away Abhyankar, who testified that stories about him were untrue.

As he was taken away, Abhyankar's brother, Neil, shouted: "We love you, Jason. Stay good."


SUPPORTERS OF VICTIMS in the molestation trial of Jason Abhyankar congratulate Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy today following a Superior Court jury finding of guilty.
Photos: Jebb Harris/The Orange County Register.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


To a reporter, he added: "He's innocent."

While convicting Abhyankar on nine felony counts, jurors acquitted him of molesting a fourth boy, citing lack of corroboration.

Two of Abhyankar's victims attended Village View Elementary School in Huntington Beach. The other attended Portola Hills Elementary in Trabuco Canyon.

During the monthlong trial, witnesses described Abhyankar as a charming predator who befriended parents to gain access to their children.

"The guy's a master manipulator," the mother of one of the Village View victims said after the verdict. "Maybe this will help these boys realize that all along there were people who believed them."

Since 1999, three teachers and two school coaches in Orange County have been cleared of molestation charges.

Prosecuting a person in a position of trust can be difficult, said Assistant District Attorney Roseanne Froeberg, head of the sexual-assault unit. Some jurors find it hard to believe that a teacher or priest could molest.