SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Trial began Thursday for a retired Sycamore Junior High School drama teacher who prosecutors said molested five of his students over a 15-year period.
Defense attorney Sal Ciulla is representing 68-year-old David Michael Bruce. He said the alleged victims were looking for a financial payout in civil lawsuits.
Bruce, of Anaheim, is charged with 10 counts of committing lewd acts on minors.
As the drama teacher, Bruce “spent a lot of time with these students,” said Deputy D.A. Rick Zimmer.
The alleged victims attended the Anaheim school from 1996-98; 1997- 2000; 2002-04; 2007-09; and 2009-11, according to the D.A.
Bruce is accused of “starting” with massages and then escalating the molestation, according to Zimmer, who said the defendant would take the students back to his residence and to tapings of TV shows in Hollywood.
“He would tell them he had Hollywood connections” and could help them get jobs in the film industry, Zimmer said.
The D.A. said the defendant focused on one part of his victim’s anatomy.
“The defendant basically has an obsession with male buttocks,” he said, alleging many of the incidents included “a lot of rubbing, touching and sparking the buttocks of these victims.”
Police allegedly found erotic photos of young boys in the teacher’s residence. Other evidence includes a recorded phone call investigators had one of the alleged victims make to Bruce, in which he reportedly admitted to committing lewd acts.
One of the boys was a special education student who would “hang out” with his teacher at lunch, according to the prosecutor, who said the defendant gave the boy gifts such as an iPod and skateboard.
Zimmer said it was the sister of one of the alleged victims that sparked the investigation.
When the sister was enrolling her own child at the school years later, she asked if Bruce was still working there. When she was told he had retired, she said she was pleased because he “molested” her brother, Zimmer said.
Aschool custodian is expected to testify he “walked in on the defendant massaging a student,” Zimmer said.
Ciulla, said the accusers were not telling the truth.
One of the boys “has a history of psychiatric issues,” Ciulla said.
“He’s fantasized about these things for so long he doesn’t even remember where fantasy ends and reality begins,” the defense attorney said.
Another alleged victim “has a long history of dishonesty” over a decade, Ciulla said.
“What you’re going to see is a mixed bag with all of these people,”
“The why is money,” Ciulla said. “Three of these five alleged victims have filed lawsuits, with more to come.”
The lawsuits are against Bruce and the “deeper pockets” of Anaheim Union High School District, Ciulla said.