State

No contest plea in molest

Modesto High School's former band instructor Lewis Kurt Wilhelm pleaded no contest Friday to annoying or molesting a teenage student during a hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Authorities say Wilhelm's transgressions involve inappropriate touching in July 2007, not sexual intercourse. Wilhelm, 42, faces as much as one year in jail when he returns to court July 6 for sentencing. He also must register as a sex offender, and the conviction will cost him his teaching license.

According to a prosecutor, Wilhelm's relationship with a 15-year-old girl began with text messaging. It escalated when he invited the student into his home and ended when the girl, who was lying on Wilhelm's bed, engaged in some kissing and fondling but rejected further advances.

A detective was suspicious about a relationship between Wilhelm and a 17-year-old girl, the prosecutor said, but the district attorney's office did not have enough evidence to prosecute.

"The people will not pursue any kind of criminal charges based on that," Deputy District Attorney Elaine Casillas said.

An investigation began after a friend of the victim reported suspicions to school officials, who called the police. In court, Wilhelm said he understands the consequences of his plea and does not contest the facts recited by the prosecutor.

Wilhelm was the band instructor at Modesto High School for 10 years until his arrest in September 2007. He was a founding member of the Fever Drum and Bugle Corps, a competitive marching band for students 14 to 21.

He won't be back in a public school classroom. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing automatically revokes credentials when a teacher is convicted of a felony.

He must stay away from the victim.

A judge will sentence Wilhelm after the Probation Department weighs aggravating and mitigating circumstances, as well as the wishes of the victim.

Wilhelm, who has never been in trouble before, remains free on $25,000 bail.

Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at sherendeen@modbee.com or 578-2338.

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