Corona, Ca: Teacher Arrested Friday of Possible Molestation

Stephen Wolford, 49, was arrested following a six-month investigation after reports of a “possible molestation”. (Riverside County Sheriff’s Dept.)

A teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale was convicted Friday of a misdemeanor count of annoying a minor but the jury was not able reach a verdict on a felony charge of lewd acts on a child and a mistrial was declared.

Deliberations in the trial of Stephen James Wolford, 49, began Thursday afternoon, and by 3 p.m. today, jurors weighing the Lake Elsinore man’s fate notified Riverside County Superior Court Judge Eric Helgesen that they were deadlocked.

When Helgesen inquired as to the final vote on Wolford’s guilt or innocence, the panel indicated it was split 8-4 in favor of acquittal on the felony charge, prompting Helgesen to declare the jury hopelessly deadlocked on that count.

Helgesen set a status conference for June 26, by which time the District Attorney’s Office is expected to notify the court whether it intends to re-try the case. Otherwise, Wolford will be sentenced on the misdemeanor count, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and probation.

Had Wolford been convicted of lewd acts, he could have faced up to four years behind bars.

Wolford was arrested in December 2010 following an investigation by Riverside County sheriff’s detectives. Norco-Unified School District officials said he is on mandatory unpaid leave pending the outcome of his trial.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed by sheriff’s Investigator Joel Pabelico, a student at Roosevelt alleged that Wolford kissed her just above the left breast while speaking with her alone after class in May 2010.

The girl, whose name was not released, also alleged that on four separate occasions, Wolford kissed her on the forehead.

Pabelico said witnesses corroborated the allegations and told him that Wolford paid an inordinate amount of attention to the victim and her friends. He allegedly told them, “You’re my daughters. I’ll take care of you.”

Wolford rejected a plea deal offered by the District Attorney’s Office just before his trial. Wolford remains free on $25,000 bail.

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