Former teacher in molestation case is accused of masturbating in court

OAKLAND (BCN)— A former Fremont elementary school teacher who faces 13 felony counts for allegedly molesting two young students nearly 20 years ago was accused of masturbating in court today but a judge denied a defense motion for a mistrial in his case.
   
Frank Montenegro's attorney, Todd Bequette, was cross-examining one of the alleged victims in the case when prosecutor Amanda Chavez suddenly asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kevin Murphy for a hearing outside the presence of jurors.
   
After jurors left the courtroom, Chavez said she'd noticed that Montenegro's left hand was inside his pants and suggested he might have been masturbating.
   
Montenegro, 53, angrily accused Chavez of "just hassling me" and denied doing anything improper, saying, "I'm not even thinking about that."
   
Murphy said he couldn't tell if Montenegro was masturbating but he said Montenegro's claim that his hands weren't underneath the defense table was "a flat-out misstatement" because he said Montenegro's hands clearly were under the table during at least part of the alleged victim's testimony.
   
Murphy added that Chavez "saw some things and I have no reason to doubt what she says."
   
Bequette then asked for a mistrial, saying, "I'm very concerned given the nature of this case" that jurors might not give Montenegro a fair trial if they saw him doing anything improper.
   
Murphy called for a recess to do some legal research on the matter and then denied the motion for a mistrial, saying that court rulings say that a defendant shouldn't be granted a mistrial based on his own misconduct in court.
   
He added, "I'm not even saying something even happened" in court today that was improper.
   
Murphy then questioned jurors individually at a closed hearing in his chambers to see if any of them had observed any conduct by Montenegro that caused them any concern.
   
Back in open court, the judge said, "Nothing of that sort occurred and there was nothing that was made known to me to support the motion for a mistrial."
   
Montenegro's trial will now resume on Wednesday morning with Bequette continuing to question the alleged victim in the case, who's now 26.
   
Montenegro was charged in 2001 with molesting the two students, who were between the ages 8 and 11, multiple times between 1998 and 2001 while he was an elementary school teacher with the Fremont Unified School District.
   
But Montenegro, who had worked for the district since 1988, fled the Bay Area for 14 years until FBI fugitive task force members found him and arrested him in the Los Angeles area on Aug. 15, 2015.
   
There's already been one mistrial in Montenegro's case because Bequette objected to Chavez's comment to jurors in her opening statement in Montenegro's first trial on Feb. 14 that when FBI agents handcuffed Montenegro "he refused to say one word."
   
Bequette asked for a mistrial, saying that court rulings have established that prosecutors aren't allowed to comment to jurors about a defendant exercising his right against self-incrimination.
   
Murphy granted the motion for a mistrial, dismissed those jurors and began selection for a new jury panel the following day.
   
A new jury was selected and Montenegro's second trial began last Wednesday.
   
Montenegro is charged with 13 felony counts, including aggravated sexual assault of a child, committing lewd acts upon a child and sodomy on a child.
   
The other victim in the case, who's now 27, testified last week.

 

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