Criminal charges have been filed against a former Merced County juvenile hall teacher accused of molesting two teenage inmates, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Tuesday.
Marilouise Hawks, 64, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of child molestation after accusations of inappropriate contact with two inmates, ages 16 and 17, at the Iris Garrett Juvenile Justice Correctional Complex, according to Steve Slocum, the supervising deputy district attorney who filed the case.
Slocum said the charges were the strongest available to prosecutors, based on the facts of the case and the California criminal code. If convicted, Hawks faces up to two years behind bars and will be required to register as a sex offender, Slocum confirmed.
“Based on the alleged conduct, the ages of the juveniles and the history of the defendant, we believe these are the most appropriate charges,” Slocum told the Sun-Star.
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There were no records of any court dates having been scheduled as of Tuesday at the Merced Superior Court clerk’s office.
Hawks hasn’t been charged with having sexual intercourse with the minors, prosecutors confirmed.
The molestation is believed to have occurred between September and October of last year, prosecutors said.
She was arrested Jan. 27 after an investigation into “inappropriate” relationships involving Hawks and the two juvenile inmates. Merced County sheriff’s deputies said Hawks was suspected of smuggling cellphones to the inmates, passing letters and providing them with money.
She was also accused of posting gang-related photographs to social media accounts linked to the juveniles.
Slocum declined to comment on specific details on the case.
Hawks, a veteran teacher who spent nearly a decade in the juvenile hall classroom, remains on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal case, according to Steve Gomes, superintendent of the Merced County Office of Education.
She was initially placed on leave Nov. 17 after the allegations of inappropriate touching first surfaced.
Gomes declined to comment on the criminal charges Tuesday, citing personnel issues.
Hawks, a former president of the Merced County Office Teachers Association, has been employed by the school district since 1999.