Ex-Clovis teacher accused in molestation appears in court

The Fresno BeeSeptember 26, 2013 

Lawyers for Neng Yang tried Thursday to hammer out a plea deal for the former Clovis teacher accused of molesting one of his second-grade students.

Wearing a red jail jumpsuit, Yang made a rare appearance in Fresno County Superior Court. Since his arrest in January 2012, he has waived his right to appear at more than a dozen hearings.

Thursday, he sat silently at the defense table while his lawyers met behind doors with Judge Hilary Chittick. Twenty minutes later, Chittick announced that the matter would resume on Oct. 17.

Yang, 45, faces 45 felony counts of child molestation in Superior Court and four federal child pornography charges in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

He was arrested in January 2012 after the parent of a 7-year-old girl called Clovis police to report that her daughter's second-grade teacher had molested the girl.

In addition, a federal indictment accuses Yang of using his cell phone to record and store videos depicting the sexual abuse of the girl on four different occasions.

His arrest and the horrific charges against him shocked not only Fresno County's close-knit Hmong community but parents and children across the Valley.

It also led the Clovis Unified School District, where Yang was employed for 18 years, to reach a $2 million settlement with the family of the second-grade girl.

Before Thursday's hearing, Yang last appeared in Fresno County Superior Court in February 2012, when his attorney, Margarita Martinez-Baly, complained that jail inmates had threatened to harm him.

It appeared a plea deal was being worked out because attorney Charles Lee, who is representing Yang in federal court, accompanied Martinez-Baly in confidential discussions with Chittick.

It also was the first time Lee had appeared in Superior Court on Yang's behalf.

After the hearing, Martinez-Baly would only say, "We are trying to reach a resolution." But in the past, Martinez-Baly has said she would like Yang's state sentence to run concurrent with any punishment he receives in federal court if convicted. Martinez-Baly also would like Yang to serve his time in federal prison because she contends Yang would not be safe in state prison.

Until a resolution is reached in both state and federal courts, Yang remains in the Fresno County Jail without bail.

His next appearance in federal court is set for Nov. 12.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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