SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A victim of a convicted child molester in Santa Clara County sued him along with the county and a local school district Thursday, claiming school authorities knew he was under investigation for child sex crimes while he was an overnight camp counselor.
Edgar Covarrubias-Padilla, 33, worked at Walden West science camp outside Saratoga and pleaded guilty to sexually molesting two campers and possessing and distributing child pornography between 2013 and 2015.
Attorneys for a 17-year-old Santa Clara County student, who was 10-years old at the time, announced Thursday they had filed suit against Covarrubias-Padilla, the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE), and Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District (MPESD).
According to the complaint, the victim was a student at Ida Jew Academy, and the school contracted with MPESD and SCCOE to provide outdoor education experience for students at Walden West.
The county at the time said Covarrubias-Padilla had passed standard background checks and a federal fingerprint clearance. But the complaint alleges SCCOE and MPESD knew Covarrubias-Padilla was being investigated for child porn possession and still allowed him to work as night monitor. The suit claims students called him “Papa Bear” because they turned to him if they were homesick or otherwise feeling bad.
The day after Covarrubias-Padilla’s arrest on May 7, 2015, investigators learned that he had molested the Santa Clara County camper at the camp the month before. A second Stanislaus County victim later told law enforcement that Covarrubias-Padilla had molested him at the camp for two years, when he was between the ages of 7 and 9.
“Santa Clara County and Mt. Pleasant Unified School District knew that Covarrubias-Padilla was under investigation for sex crimes involving children, yet they never informed our client or her parents,” said Morgan Stewart, the victims’ attorney, in a prepared statement. “Instead, they gave this dangerous predator access to an innocent 10-year-old girl alone, at night, and failed to adequately supervise him. They must be held accountable for the pain and suffering our client has suffered as a result of their negligence.”
Investigators found that Covarrubias-Padilla was distributing child porn from an email account with the name “pbear” and possessed over 20,000 images and videos of child porn on his laptop, cellphone and online accounts, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
A spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Office of Education said the matter was under review by counsel and the office was unable to comment on the pending litigation.
Covarrubias-Padilla was sentenced in 2017 to 18 years in prison.