SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A former San Jose teacher faces a sentence of 75 years to life in prison after his conviction today of molesting five young girls at an elementary school, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
A jury in Superior Court in San Jose found Craig Chandler, 36, guilty on all five felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 and five additional multiple victim allegations, Deputy District Attorney Alison Filo said.
The felony convictions and multiple victim accusations, which are enhancements to sentencing, amounted to 15 years per count and Chandler could be sentenced to 75 years to life at a hearing set for Sept. 27, Filo said.
The mother of one of the five girls was in the courtroom when the verdict was read and “is incredibly relieved to be on the other side of this case,” Filo said.
“The facts in this case are unimaginable,” Filo said. “The tragedy that was inflicted by Mr. Chandler is unspeakable and the district attorney’s office is certainly proud to have represented the victims to the best of our ability and hope this brings some closure to them so that they can move on with their lives.”
The female victims were between the ages of 7 and 9 when Chandler molested them during recesses in his classroom at O.B. Whaley Elementary School in East San Jose sometime during the 2010 to 2011 and 2011 to 2012 school years, Filo said.
San Jose police arrested Chandler at his home Jan. 10, 2012.
The district attorney’s office alleged that Chandler abused the girls by putting his penis in their mouths after blindfolding them alone in class during recess in what he said was a touch and feel game.
Each of the girls, who were all Chandler’s students, testified in court for the prosecution and were “incredible,” Filo said. “They were amazing.”
The number of victims and the discovery of sperm on two children’s chairs in Chandler’s classroom that matched his DNA were among the things that persuaded the jury to convict him, Filo said.
Another key factor was the descriptions the children gave while on the witness stand about what happened to them in Chandler’s classroom, Filo said.
“When you look at their testimony on the whole, there is just no other explanation for this conduct,” Filo said.
“The children were made victims by duplicity, they were made victims by Mr. Chandler’s hiding what he was doing,” Filo said. “My greatest hope is that these children forget about being in Mr. Chandler’s class and never realize the kind of victim that he made them.”
Chandler’s lawyer, Brian Madden, failed to persuade the jury during the trial that his client had been the victim of “a rush to judgment” by parents and police and that investigators asked the girls leading questions to which they gave biased and inconsistent answers.
Members of the Chandler’s family, who attended his two-week trial, wept as the verdict was read. Chandler, who was hunched over the defendant’s table, at one point shook his head slowly.
His family members and members of the jury all declined to be interviewed after the hearing this afternoon at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.
The jury, which began its deliberations Wednesday afternoon, took about six hours to reach its verdict, Filo said.
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