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Prosecutor says testimony of victims was crucial to outcome
By Jim Shilander
Former Shorecliffs Middle School teacher Richard Rack pleaded guilty Monday to four felony counts of sexual assault against one student and performing lewd acts on two others.
Rack’s jury trial in the case began last week. The prosecution officially rested its case Thursday. The defense was scheduled to begin its presentation Monday, but Rack’s plea put an end to the trial.
With the guilty plea, Rack, 51, faces up to 10 years in state prison and will have his name on the National Sex Offender Registry for the rest of his life. A sentence hearing has been scheduled for October 18 at 8:30 a.m. at which point the victims and their families may speak, as can Rack.
Deputy District Attorney Vanessa Woods, who prosecuted the case, said the testimony of all three victims, as well as other girls who came forward to testify on other incidents, were vital to the outcome.
“I believe their testimony was crucial, and I believe their testimony was truthful,” Woods said.
It became clear, based on the testimony of the victims and others, Woods said, that Rack had exploited his position.
“As a teacher, you’re in a trusted position, and he took advantage of that position,” Woods said.
Woods said there was no deal in exchange for Rack’s plea. Rack pleaded guilty to two felony counts of lewd acts on a child age 14 or 15, one count of lascivious acts on a minor under 14 and one count of oral copulation of a minor under 16.
Marcus Walton, chief communications officer for the Capistrano Unified School District echoed the comments from Woods.
“It is clear that Mr. Rack violated the trust of this community, our parents, and most importantly his students,” Walton said.
While Walton was unable to discuss the situation involving Rack in detail, he highlighted that when accusations of this sort are brought to the attention of district staff, immediate actions are taken to remove the accused person from contact with students are taken, and the matters are turned over to law enforcement officials.
“We encourage anyone who witnesses inappropriate behavior to immediately contact a school administrator or law enforcement official,” Walton said.
Rack, who had taught at the school since 2002, originally faced eight counts, but four were dropped.
Rack was arrested last year following accusations from two students at Shorecliffs. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department initiated an investigation after a student told the school’s principal about Rack having made lewd comments and hugging her and another student, authorities said.
After his arrest, the investigation uncovered additional charges related to a relationship with a third student between February 2009 and October 2010, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said. The investigation uncovered that Rack sexually assaulted the student, through lewd touching and oral copulation, authorities said.