A Witness Testifies Against His Alleged Abuser and Former Elementary Teacher

OAKLAND — A 27-year-old Fremont man testified against his alleged abuser in court last month. The defendant, 53-year-old Frank Montenegro, worked as a special education teacher at Fremont’s Blacow Elementary School when he allegedly befriended and then sexually assaulted the victim. The period of abuse allegedly occurred when the witness was in third grade.

“He told me that’s what normal people do and I can never tell no one, if I tell someone I will never see my family again,” the witness told jurors hearing the Montenegro’s child sex abuse trial. “I was a little boy, I was scared of never seeing my family again.”

A Trial a Decade In Waiting

Montenegro stands charged with 13 felony counts of sex crimes against two boys, including sodomy on a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, and committing lewd acts upon a child.

The crimes allegedly took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s when both male victims were age 10 or younger. Prosecutors first levied the charges in 2001 after the discovery. However, Montenegro fled the Bay Area shortly following once warrant came for his arrest. 14 years later, FBI agents apprehended him in Los Angeles after LAPD received an anonymous tip on his whereabouts. Montenegro maintains his innocence against all charges.

The witness described his childhood self as being shy and with an overly busy family. Montenegro befriended the witness’s mother and offered to take her children to sporting events and similar activities. Some of the activities involved the boy being at his house. It was Montenegro’s own sister who first reported him to local authorities. She did so after finding Montenegro alone with the young witness in his bedroom.

The witness told jurors he couldn’t remember exactly when the abuse first occurred except that it was sometime when he was 8 and continued until he was 10. He described in graphic detail the rape and assault he suffered at the hands of Montenegro. He maintains such abuse occurred both at the school and in a Hayward apartment occupied by the defendant.

Before the witness took the stand, Montenegro attempted to fire acting defense attorney Todd Bequette. He requested instead to act as his own attorney so that he might cross-examine the witness himself. Judge Kevin Murphy refused the request on the grounds Montenegro failed to prove adequate preparation.


Calabasas Woman Charged with Sex Crimes

Police arrested and charged a Calabasas woman with multiple sex crimes last month. Court documents allege the woman supplied five teenage boys with cocaine. The courts are accusing her of also having unlawful sexual intercourse with at least three of them.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Victims Bureau investigated and arrested Gina Weisberg, 40, on suspicion of three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, three counts of oral copulation, and three counts of lewd acts with a minor. Upon her arrest, prosecutors added two counts of furnishing a controlled substance and five counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Thus far, both prosecutors and Sgt. Charles Gates of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau declined to release any details of the allegations as investigations are ongoing. Gates did say Weisberg lacked any previous history of known sexual abuse or sex crimes involving minors.

According to Los Angeles Times, Weisberg lives in an upscale gated community in Calabasas. She and her husband filed for divorce this past November and he alleges to know nothing of the charges.

Weisberg posted her $695,000 bond and was released from custody the same day of her arrest. She has not responded to inquiries for comment.

 

 


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the senior population of California alone will double by 2025 to an incredible 6.4 million individuals. That is a larger growth rate than any other state, but is California ready?

Sadly, there are increasing amounts of publicized stories about nursing home neglect, physical abuse, and sexual assault. Now, families, activists, and government officials throughout the state are scrambling to understand why.

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An Epidemic of Nursing Home Abuse

It is impossible to know exactly how many victims there are in California. Yet, the most recent data, interviews, and independent reporting shows the number much higher than previously predicted. Additionally, it appears to be a systematic failure as nursing homes delay or neglect altogether to investigate and report allegations. Abuse that is reported is often against nursing home employees by victims or family members of victims who are physically, emotionally, and mentally vulnerable.

A recent CNN investigation detailed case after case of abuse, including the story of an 88-year-old California woman raped in her nursing home bed. She awoke one morning with her catheter removed and bed wet. She told police an unknown male nursing attendant stood over her. He allegedly said, “This is why I love my job.” Weeks later, doctors diagnosed her with incurable genital herpes after she complained of severe vaginal pain and weeping blisters. Her assailant remains unidentified.

At another California facility, three male certified nursing assistants ridiculed and repeatedly abused five male nursing home residents. As a group, they pinched the nipples and penis of one of their victims. They forced the senior victim to also eat his own feces. The CNAs forced another victim with cerebral palsy and mental retardation into cold showers where they beat him. They then forced the victim to walk naked in front of others. The CNAs photographed and even videoed the abuse. Other staff members witnessed many of these acts yet not one employee reported the abuse as required by law until much later. The CNAs eventually lost their certifications, but an independent investigation found that most involved never faced charges.

Protecting the Most Vulnerable

Preventing and detecting sexual abuse in nursing homes can be a challenge. Yet, most advocates, investigators, and medical experts agree there is more facilities can do to protect their vulnerable residents. Things like investigating every claim of sexual assault until it’s proven one way or the other and instituting greater supervision, better reporting of cases, and more training and education. This includes some sensitivity and attention education.

“Most abuse is undetected and never reported mainly because observable signs are missed or misinterpreted,” reports Tony Chicotel, staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “A little training could go a long way.”


Michigan prosecutors upped the charges against former USA gymnastics doctor last month. In December, Dr. Larry Nassar, 53, was arrested and charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct against a person under 13 years old. Now, prosecutors are filing nearly two dozen charges against Nassar related to alleged sexual assault against nine girls.

These new charges reflect the first criminal charges made against Nassar in relation to his work at Michigan State University. During his time at the facility, Nassar acted as the preferred doctor for regional gymnasts with back or hip injuries. He also faces civil lawsuits filed by dozens of women and girls formerly in his care. This includes one filed by 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher.

sexual abuse

In a 60 Minutes interview about her experiences, Dantzscher said, “[Nassar] would put his fingers inside of me, move my leg around. He would tell me I was going to feel a pop and that that would put my hips back and help my back pain.”

Nassar Sexually Abused Children In his Capacity as Doctor

The two dozen charges are filed across two cases. One in Ingham County where Michigan State stands and one in neighboring Eaton County home of the Gedderts’ Twistars Club, a gymnastics club. Nassar denies the charges and has reportedly told Michigan State bosses that he “will overcome this” in a 2016 email.

According to Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette, “Dr. Nassar used his status and authority to engage in horrid sexual assaults under the guise of medical procedures.”

Many of his victims accuse Nassar of inserting his fingers in their vaginas during physical treatments. Nassar allegedly asked parents to either to leave the room or otherwise blocked his actions from their view. Two of the victims were under 13 and seven were between the ages of 13 and 16.

According to investigative Det. Sgt. Andrea Mumford, one girl, identified in the filings as Victim B, says “she and all the gymnasts trusted Nassar and that he was like a god to the gymnasts. Because it was happening to all of them, they thought it was normal.”

The Unveiling of Systematic USA Gymnastics Abuse

Nassar is not the first professional affiliated with USA Gymnastics facing accusations of abuse. Last year’s IndyStar investigation included research on sexual misconduct complaint files the organization kept on 54 coaches. They also unveiled a “Jane Doe” lawsuit filed in 2013 against USA Gymnastics. In it, Doe claims former coach William McCabe secretly videotaped her undressing. The suit accuses the broader organization of negligence as McCabe received four prior sexual abuse complaints through his work with the organization. Yet, they encouraged him to continue coaching, including with the then 11-year-old Jane Doe.

Upon initial publication of the IndyStar investigations, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun waved off the allegations. “We do not intend to investigate,” he told reporters in August 2016. He continued, “We couldn’t possibly investigate allegations of misconduct in 47 different (national governing bodies). We do have what I think is a pretty state-of-the-art policy regarding abuse and misconduct, not just sexual misconduct, so we will watch those proceedings.”

Four months later, IndyStar released another report stating the found at least 368 current and former gymnasts who alleged abuse at the hands of gym owners, coaches, and other adults at a rate of one every 20 days. USA Gymnastics responded by calling on a former federal prosecutor to lead an independent review with the aim of strengthening policies and procedures on safety.

 

 


Police arrested Camryn Zelinger, 32, a teacher at Encore High School for the Arts in Riverside, Calif., early February on suspicion of lewd or lascivious acts with one of her female students. Officer Ryan Railsback of the Riverside Police Department gave the victim’s age as between 14 and 15-years-old and stated Zelinger had been engaging in “inappropriate physical contact and communications.” The abuse occurred over several months and was discovered by the student’s mother after she found evidence of abuse on the daughter’s phone.

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Mother Discovered Abuse via Illicit Phone Communications

The victim’s mother, whose name was not released, stated in a Wednesday press conference that she instinctively felt something was wrong. “She wouldn’t tell me, she was too afraid. She kept saying, ‘Nothing, mom, nothing, mom.’ But I knew something was wrong.”

“When I finally found out something was wrong, when she told me her teacher was molesting her — first period, eight period, all throughout the day…”

The victim’s mother was able to get her to open up after searching her phone. “I’m a nosy mother. And I grabbed her phone. And I looked at texts from this teacher, sexting my baby over the phone, over the texts. Just all this stuff,” she said.

According to the parents of other students at the school, Zelinger routinely sought out the victim. They told KTLA that she would “request other teachers remove the female student from their classroom so she could spend time with the student.”

The DA charged Zelinger both with lewd or lascivious acts with a minor and annoying or molesting a child under 18 years old. The courts released her from custody on February 7 after she posted a $50,000 bail. She’ll be due back in court April 11.

At this time, police have not stated whether or not they believe there were other victims. However, they are asking anyone with information to come forward.

“Encore High School for the Arts has fully cooperated with the investigation and have stated the teacher is no longer employed with them,” police said. “If anyone has information regarding this investigation, please contact Detective J. Adcox at (951) 353-7121 or jadcox@riversideca.gov, or Detective E. Bercian at (951) 353-7950 or ebercian@riversideca.gov.”