CA—Lawsuit against school district ends in mistrial, victims respond

For immediate release: Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Statement by Melanie Jula Sakoda of Moraga, East Bay Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (925-708-6175,[email protected])

A Contra Costa judge declared a mistrial last week after a jury could not agree on a verdict in the lawsuit brought against the Mt. Diablo Unified School District by 12 boys who were sexually abused by elementary school teacher Joseph Martin.

Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, were extremely disappointed in this result, but also said that they “were proud of and grateful to all the brave kids who testified.”

The boys had accused the school district of ignoring warning signs that the teacher was a pedophile.

Martin was convicted in 2015 of molesting seven boys he taught at Woodside Elementary School in Concord between 2007 and 2013. He is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence, although he is appealing his conviction.

Despite this conviction, the school district argued at trial both that it had handled the earlier allegations appropriately, and that the boys had not been molested.

Melanie Jula Sakoda, the East Bay Director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, expressed her frustration with the verdict.

“I sat in the courtroom and listened to these kids testify. I can only echo what the judge in the criminal case said, ‘I believe these boys, I believe their testimony. They're not mistaken or confused.’ I also think the district’s 2006 internal investigative report was a smoking gun. I don’t understand why more members of the jury didn’t see that.”

The San Francisco Director for SNAP, Tim Lennon, chimed in, “Why aren't the parents of kids currently in the Mt. Diablo schools more concerned about this case? The district refused to own up to their mistake in failing to report earlier. They tried to argue that these boys weren’t abused, and/or that they weren’t damaged by what happened. This time, the district first endangered and then re-victimized these 12 boys. Next time, it could be their children.”

Sakoda concluded, "My heart aches for these brave boys, but I sincerely admire their persistence and the way they steadfastly told their truth. They are all winners!"

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for sexual abuse victims. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who suffered abuse in all types of institutional settings, including schools, scouting and the military. Our website

Contact – Melanie Jula Sakoda (925-708-6175[email protected]), Tim Lennon (415-312-5820[email protected]), David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected])

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