A group of supporters sat by Mona McGrady, a former staff member at a private Christian school in Tuolumne who is accused of sexually abusing a student in the 1990s, as she waited for her turn to go before Judge James Boscoe on Friday in Tuolumne County Superior Court.
McGrady, 61, a former physical education teacher and coach at Mother Lode Christian School, got up and sat at a table in front of Boscoe next to her attorney, Clint Parish, who told the judge his client would plead not guilty to the charges against her.
Supporters of the victim were in the courtroom as well, but the victim was not.
The Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office has charged McGrady on suspicion of 13 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years old and one count of sexual penetration with a foreign object of a person under 18 years of age, which allegedly occurred against a female student between 1994 and 1997 while she was employed at the school.
Parish, whose office is in Sonora, asked Boscoe for an additional four weeks to schedule a preliminary hearing despite opposition from Assistant District Attorney Eric Hovatter.
“This is a case from 35 years ago, and my client’s working feverishly to obtain records from that time,” Parish said.
Hovatter argued that the alleged victim also has rights, which Parish acknowledged before noting that the alleged victim didn’t come forward until last year, and the case against McGrady wasn’t brought until May.
Boscoe granted the additional time for gathering records and ordered McGrady to be back in court on Sept. 20, when they will schedule a date for the preliminary hearing.
Preliminary hearings are where judges determine whether there’s enough probable cause to try a defendant.
Parish also challenged Hovatter’s request for the court to grant the alleged victim a restraining order against McGrady because he said the prosecution must show that she’s tried to dissuade a witness or made any other inappropriate contact.
“Nothing I’m seeing here says that’s happening,” Parish said.
Boscoe added a hearing over the requested restraining order to McGrady’s Sept. 20 court date.
Parish said at McGrady’s previous court date last month that he planned to file a demurrer before she entered a plea.
Demurrers are used to challenge the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Parish said a successful demurrer typically results in the prosecutor filing an amended complaint to fix the insufficiencies.
The demurrer was scheduled to be considered at the hearing on Friday, but Parish said he decided not to file it after receiving all of the investigative reports.
Parish said he couldn’t comment specifically on any information in the reports, but he determined that there was no legal ground for him to file a demurrer after reviewing them.
“Once I got everything, I realized it would be frivolous and just couldn’t do it,” he said in an interview prior to the hearing on Friday.
Parish, McGrady and the rest of the group seated near her left the courtroom at the same time after the hearing, which lasted a little over five minutes.
McGrady was arrested on May 21 and booked into Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of the sex-abuse charges. She was released later that day after posting $100,000 bail.
A seven-page affidavit was filed with the court on May 16 that summarized a 207-page report prepared by Tuolumne County Sheriff’s detective Scott Meyer after an interview with the primary alleged victim on Jan. 30 and subsequent interviews with others.
The document described 14 incidents in Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties involving the primary alleged victim from Jan. 24, 1994, to Jan. 27, 1997, beginning when she was 14 years old.
Another alleged victim who couldn’t press charges against McGrady due to the statute of limitations told investigators that the former teacher and coach paid “special attention to a small number of girls,” according to the affidavit.
The affidavit also said a woman reported abuse in 2001 to a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office deputy, but charges were not filed. California law dictates that charges must be filed within one year of a report being made to supercede the statute of limitations.
The primary alleged victim in the current reported to law enforcement on Dec. 3 last year.
Contact Alex MacLean at email@example.com or (209) 588-4530.