Judge Hector Ramon said sufficient probable cause existed to bring a criminal case against Michael Henderson to a jury trial.
Henderson, who had taught computer science at both the high school and middle school through 2019, was arrested after allegations, dating three years, were made by an unnamed juvenile whom Henderson reportedly had privately tutored in math and violin and in an afterschool program. The juvenile’s first reported disclosure of the alleged touching was when she was 10 years old, in fifth grade, according to testimony Wednesday, the second day of the hearing.
Henderson was released on bail shortly after his arrest, and has since moved to Washington state, according to his attorney.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Krystal Salcido argued that there was sufficient evidence from interviews with “Jane Doe” that Henderson’s alleged touching activity grew worse over time and was done with intent to sexually arouse himself or Jane Doe, the legal hurdle for a lewd and lascivious behavior charge. Defense attorney George Gigarjian referred to a recording of his client’s out-loud conversation with himself while alone in an interview room, in which he is “despondent and saying ‘this is crazy.’”
Henderson allegedly touched the young girl on her breasts, butt and shoulders, gave her hugs and told her she was beautiful, according to testimony. He also allegedly stuck his fingers inside the girl’s pant waistband.
Prior to Henderson’s arrest, investigators had the juvenile phone Henderson to go over allegations while detectives listened in on the call. Gigarjian confirmed with witnesses that his client had denied various allegations made against him and urged the student to speak with their parents, a counselor or someone else.
“Have you had another case like this where the accused person encourages the complaining witness to go tell her parents?,” Gigarjian asked a law enforcement witness before withdrawing the question when challenged by the prosecution.
Later, Gigarjian read aloud portions of the transcript of the call between the juvenile and Henderson, confirming that investigators had not coached the girl to tell Henderson, “You made me feel worthless and worse, jut like a bad person, you’re pushing me and I’ve been scared …”
Henderson responded, according to the call transcript that Gigarjian read, “I’m not trying to make you look crazy. I don’t want you to feel awful. I don’t want you to feel like you’re a bad person, I don’t want anybody to think I’m a bad person.”
Salcido accused Gigarjian of trying to turn the preliminary hearing into a “he said, she said” case.Henderson’s case is not unique within the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District. This month, Superintendent Laurie Bruton confirmed ongoing investigations with outstanding student misconduct allegations into four district employees. Most recently, allegations of sexual misconduct, physical assault and other inappropriate behaviors were levied against social studies teacher Eric Kahl. In 2017, former SLVHS Assistant Principal Ned Hearn faced allegations of sexually abusing a 16-year-old student, dating back to 1997 when he worked as her swim coach at Dixon High School in Solano County. Hearn now serves as assistant superintendent of instruction with San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District.
Victims of sexual assault – and other forms of abuse – can get support from Monarch Services of Santa Cruz County at www.monarchscc.org. Monarch offers a 24-hour, bilingual support hotline at 888-900-4232. Victims of abuse can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.