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Tuesday, May 06 2014 06:42 PM

Witnesses: Teen found 'pressed up against' peer

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BY LAUREN FOREMAN Californian staff writer lforeman@bakersfield.com

Two witnesses countered a former Kern High School District aide's account of what he observed when he found a male and female autistic student half-dressed in an Independence High School bathroom Oct. 15, 2009.

Last week, aide Matthew Hoyt testified that he found the students an inch apart from each other.

But the two witnesses Tuesday -- a police officer and developmental psychologist -- said in Kern County Superior Court that after speaking with the aide at the time, they understood the male student was "pressed up against" the female.

The detail has distinguished the plaintiffs' argument that the female student was sexually assaulted from the defense's that no assault occurred.

The girl's parents are suing KHSD for money to cover counseling and therapy for their daughter, identified in a legal complaint filed in 2010 as Jane Doe.

The Californian does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault nor relatives if doing so would make it possible to identify them.

Called as a plaintiff's witness, Bakersfield police officer Michael Ko said in court that his initial response in the incident was to a "possible sexual assault."

Another witness, developmental psychologist Bryna Siegel, also testified that Hoyt told her the two students were pressed up against each other. But she said while she considers that positioning significant, she does not consider it sexual assault.

"Certainly, I didn't think this sounds like a rape," she said.

Siegel is an adjunct professor at the University of California San Francisco and has a doctoral degree from Stanford University. She said she has researched autism and how autistic children learn for about 30 years.

Still, Wegis questioned her credibility as an expert and later called her a "hired gun."

Members of the 12-person jury turned their heads like windshield wipers as they watched Wegis aggressively question Siegel.

Wegis questioned Siegal from about 1:45 p.m. to past 4 p.m. Tuesday.

He projected that he would wrap up questioning in the case by next Wednesday and that the trial would probably go to a jury by May 21.

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