Police arrest ex-teacher who left wife for student for alleged 1998 incident

Posted April 06, 2012, at 9:46 p.m.

MODESTO, Calif. — A former Modesto high school teacher who attracted national media attention when he revealed his romantic relationship with his 18-year-old student was arrested Friday and is accused of sexual misconduct with another teenage girl 14 years ago.

James Hooker, 41, of Modesto was booked at the Stanislaus County Jail on one count of committing oral copulation with a person under 18, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

The charge stems from an incident that occurred in August 1998, when Hooker was a teacher at Davis High School in Modesto, according to authorities.

Hooker befriended the alleged victim, a 17-year-old girl, and developed a romantic relationship with her, said police Lt. Rick Armendariz. During that relationship, Armendariz said Hooker sexually abused the girl.

The alleged victim in the criminal case is not Jordan Powers, the 18-year-old former Enochs High School student who moved in with Hooker — her former business teacher — on Feb. 22, the day he resigned from Modesto City Schools.

Hooker’s relationship with Powers came to public attention after her mother, Tammie Powers, began castigating Hooker on her Facebook page. Hooker and Jordan Powers appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the nationally syndicated “Dr. Phil Show,” while Tammie Powers went on the “Nancy Grace Show.”

On her Facebook page Friday afternoon, Tammie Powers wrote: “Yes, confirmed James Hooker is in custody [sic]. I am with my daughter as I post this.”

She reunited with Jordan Powers and shortly after noon packed her daughter’s things at Hooker’s Modesto apartment. She sent a text message to The Modesto Bee, saying she was taking her daughter to catch a flight to an undisclosed location Friday afternoon.

Hooker appeared briefly in court Friday for his arraignment. He entered the courtroom wearing an orange-and-white jail jumpsuit and shackles on his wrists and ankles.

The hearing only lasted several minutes. Several courthouse officials and attorneys gathered in the courtroom to watch. It appeared that nobody showed up to support Hooker.

The defendant told Judge Thomas Zeff he could not afford to hire an attorney, so the judge appointed the public defender’s office to represent Hooker. He remained in custody at the jail Friday afternoon; his bail amount set at $50,000.

The Bee attempted to speak to Hooker in jail Friday afternoon, but Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials said he declined news media requests to be interviewed.

Hooker appeared in court without an attorney, so he was allowed to read the criminal complaint to himself. He told the judge his bail amount was too much for “something that happened 14 years ago. It seems like an extreme amount.”

Zeff entered a not guilty plea on Hooker’s behalf and scheduled a pretrial hearing Tuesday. The judge will review Hooker’s bail amount then and determine whether to decrease the bail.

Monte Vista Chapel Pastor Ken Van Vliet, who has acted as spokesman for the Hooker family, said Friday afternoon the family had no comment regarding Hooker’s arrest. Hooker left his wife and three children to move in with Powers.

Detectives initially began to investigate Hooker after Tammie Powers reported an alleged inappropriate relationship between her daughter and Hooker.

During the course of the investigation, the detectives learned of the alleged victim from 1998, who was involved in a prior romantic relationship with Hooker when she was a high school student in Modesto.

She was not a student at Davis High School, where Hooker was teaching at the time. Police declined to say which school she attended, fearing it might identify the alleged victim who is listed as Jane Doe in the criminal complaint.

Armendariz said investigators obtained evidence, which corroborates the victim’s allegations. He declined to reveal details about this evidence only to say “it’s a culmination of interviews and physical evidence that the investigators obtained.”

Detectives got an arrest warrant for Hooker on Friday morning and arrested him at the small apartment he shared with Powers. Armendariz said the initial investigation into Hooker’s romantic relationship with Powers remains open.

Hooker resigned from his job as Enochs High business teacher in February after he was placed on administrative leave. He worked at Davis High before Enochs opened.

“Fortunately this type of situation is rare, but when there is a report or claim of inappropriate behavior, we take immediate action,” said Modesto City Schools Superintendent Pam Able.

In late February, Hooker and Powers first publicly spoke about their relationship to The Bee. The couple met when Powers was a freshman at Enochs, but both say the romance didn’t bloom until months after she turned 18 on Sept. 5.

Hooker has said he left his wife and three daughters the week before Powers moved in with him. The school district had suspended him Feb. 3.

State Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, has introduced legislation that would outlaw teacher-student relationships and strip offending teachers of their pensions.

On her Twitter feed Friday, Olsen Tweeted: “So pleased to hear of James Hooker’s arrest! He has shown a pattern of predatory behavior and must be stopped.”

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(c)2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)

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