A former San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District middle and high school teacher who was accused of abusing a 10-year-old girl during private after-school lessons pleaded guilty to a felony assault count in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Wednesday.
Judge Paul Burdick ordered Michael Henderson homebound for six months at his Washington State residence, but as part of the terms of the plea deal, he won’t have to register as a sex offender.
“He cannot be a teacher, with a felony conviction, in any state,” said Kristal Salcido, the assistant district attorney, explaining the ramifications of Henderson agreeing to the charge of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. “It’s something that I brought to the victim, in terms of him having to register for being a sex offender versus not. And ultimately the most important thing for the victim was that he was not permitted to be a teacher anymore, which has been achieved.”
Henderson has been placed on probation for two years and must pay $370 in fines. He will get credit for two days already served. Judge Burdick also issued a protective order for the victim.
Evidence presented during the preliminary examination painted a picture of Henderson isolating the girl during tutoring, turning the lights off and touching her on the buttocks and breasts.
He was held to answer on four counts of lewd acts with a child under the age of 14, although those charges were all dismissed as part of the guilty plea.
Henderson appeared in person alongside his lawyers George Gigarjian and Peter Leeming.
“I think it was a complicated problem,” Gigarjian said afterward. “The allegations were strongly denied by Mr. Henderson, and he decided to engage in this compromise, rather than take the case to trial—to put it behind himself and the rest of his family.”
Victim impact statements read by Michelle Cardinale, a victim advocate with the district attorney’s office, highlighted the results of Henderson’s actions.
“This happened when I was 10 years old,” read the text from the victim. “His hands were holding me back from living my middle school life.”
She says she’s on the road to recovery now, but wrote that Henderson’s behavior triggered an eating disorder.
“I would be playing sports and almost pass out from lack of food,” she said. “Due to Michael’s actions I have panic attacks.”
The statement from the girl’s sister pointed to how the victim was driven to self-harm and to consider suicide.
“I’m scared when she doesn’t answer the phone because I fear the worst,” Cardinale read aloud in court. “We trusted this man and I wish we hadn’t.”
Her mother spoke of blaming herself.
“I beat myself up daily for trusting Mr. Henderson,” she said in her statement, adding that he stole her innocence. “We continue to work through this new reality. I hate you.”
An independent investigation into several other accusations of SLVUSD teacher sexual misconduct is still ongoing, superintendent Christopher Schiermeyer told the Press Banner.
During sentencing, Gigarjian asked Burdick for permission to extend the date of when Henderson must show up to be outfitted with an ankle monitor by a few weeks so he can travel.
“Where is Mr. Henderson going?” Burdick asked.
“Visiting family,” Henderson replied.
Burdick set the reporting date for Sept. 30, which was not quite as long as Henderson had hoped for.
Gigarjian then asked for one more exception: that Henderson be allowed to leave his home jail cell every day to take his son to and from school.
The victim’s family members shook their heads at the request.
“I’m not going to authorize it,” Burdick said.