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A former Moraga middle school teacher’s conviction and eight-year sentence for molesting a student over a four-year period have been upheld by a state appeals court in San Francisco. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal on Tuesday said it found no errors in the proceedings in which Julie Correa, 44, was convicted and sentenced in Contra Costa County Superior Court last year.
Correa, a former physical education teacher at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, pleaded no contest in October 2011 to one count of sexual penetration through force or duress and three counts of committing lewd acts on a child who was 14 or 15 years old. Correa was originally charged with a total of 28 counts of abuse carried out between 1996 and 1999, when the victim was 14 to 17 years old. The eight-year sentence, which Correa is now serving at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, was agreed to in her plea bargain.
The victim, who chose to be identified, was Kristen Cunnane, 30, of Walnut Creek. She is now the associate head coach of the women’s swimming team at the University of California at Berkeley. Cunnane reported the abuse in 2010 after suffering flashbacks of the molestation and with the aid of police detectives made recorded calls to Correa to build evidence in the case.
At Correa’s sentencing on Dec. 14, 2011, Cunnane said the flashbacks caused her severe anxiety and depression. “Saying something and asking for help is what I knew I had to do in order to heal,” Cunnane told the court during the sentencing. According to evidence summarized by the appeals court, Cunnane met Correa at the start of middle school, when she was in sixth grade, and was molested by her from the end of her eighth grade year until the fall of her senior year.
Cunnane is one of four former students who have filed civil lawsuits or claims against the Moraga School District and three former administrators for allegedly failing to respond to complaints of sexual abuse by Correa and former middle-school science teacher Daniel Witters in the mid-1990s. The other three plaintiffs have not disclosed their identities. Witters committed suicide in 1996.
The school district’s board said in a Nov. 13 statement that “our district and our board are deeply sorry for what happened to the students in our care over a decade ago.” The board said the former students who filed the lawsuits and claims have agreed to engage in mediation with the district and that the district’s insurance company will participate in the process.
In Correa’s criminal appeal proceeding, her attorney informed the court that she had not found any issues to raise on appeal. Correa was told that she had the right to file personally a separate appeal brief, but declined to do so. Under an established court procedure, the appeals panel then conducted an independent review of the case record to evaluate possible appeal issues.
Justice Maria Rivera said in Tuesday’s ruling that the panel conducted the review and found “no reversible error or abuse of discretion” in the trial court proceedings. “There are no meritorious issues to be argued,” Rivera wrote. At the time of her conviction, Correa was living in Utah with her husband and two young sons.
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