A former high school teacher and police officer from Los Banos on Tuesday was ordered to stand trial for his alleged sexual relationship with a high school girl about 10 years ago, including claims that one such incident happened during class time.
Dusty Norris, 37, appeared Tuesday in Merced County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing. Judge John D. Kirihara ordered Norris to answer to four of the five counts for which he initially was charged.
Norris’ next hearing is 8:30 a.m. Feb. 7 at the courthouse.
The entire hearing centered on the testimony of Wayne Hutton, an investigator with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.
Hutton was asked about the accusations of the high school girl, who was enrolled in a class taught by Norris. The student described Norris as “attractive” and “sexually aggressive,” the investigator said.
He was the fun teacher that all of the students wanted.
Wayne Hutton, who described himself as an extra help investigator for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office
“He was the fun teacher that all of the students wanted,” Hutton said, recounting the testimony of one accuser.
The student said Norris joked they should make pornographic movies together and sell them, Hutton said. “She described him as being sexually aggressive, letting her know he wanted to have sex,” he said.
Norris worked as an instructor at the high school while he was employed by the Merced County Office of Education from 2004 to 2007. He left that job and was hired in 2008 as a Los Banos police officer, a job he was fired from after the sex crimes allegations surfaced last year.
Katie Gates, the prosecuting deputy district attorney, declined to comment on any of the details of the case.
“We believe there’s enough evidence to present this case to a jury,” Gates said later.
Norris had been charged with sex crimes involving two victims, but prosecutors on Tuesday only presented evidence regarding one alleged victim.
The alleged victim in Norris’ case also was a victim of sex crimes involving Gary Bettencourt, a former Los Banos teacher who pleaded no contest last year to having sex with the student. Bettencourt is serving an eight-year prison term at North Kern State Prison in Delano.
We’re very pleased with the way the preliminary hearing went today. It gave us our first opportunity to show the very serious problems and flaws that exist in this case.
Chris Loethen, the Merced County deputy public defender
Chris Loethen, the Merced County deputy public defender, said he was pleased with the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing.
“It gave us our first opportunity to show the very serious problems and flaws that exist in this case,” Loethen said.
Loethen said the way the case came to light was highly unusual.
“This case started because a private investigator working for a Bay Area lawyer who was already suing the Los Banos school district reported alleged incidents from nearly 10 years ago,” Loethen said. “It became clear during cross examination that investigator Hutton never questioned the motivations of the private investigator or the lawyer who employed him, despite the fact that in his 30 years of experience, he said he’s never seen a private investigator make a report on behalf of his employer’s client.”
Loethen said the case is “a great example of why it’s so important for people to withhold judgment in a case until all the facts and circumstances come out in a trial.”
It’s was unclear Tuesday exactly how much prison time Norris could face, if convicted. Gates said that although one count was dismissed on Tuesday, prosecutors have not ruled out filing additional charges against Norris based on the testimony that was given Tuesday.
She said prosecutors would make that decision before the upcoming arraignment on Feb. 7. Norris remains free on bail.