A Fresno City College student tearfully testified Wednesday that former instructor Brian Calhoun grabbed her outside a classroom in March, pinned her against a wall, and demanded to know her name after she cursed him.
Because he wouldn't let go of her, 5-foot 2-inch Kevynn Gomez said she threw a right uppercut because Calhoun was much taller. Her fist connected with the bridge of his nose.
"I wanted to get free," Gomez told jurors in Fresno County Superior Court as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Because Calhoun, a former Fresno City Council member, wouldn't let her go, Gomez said she slugged him two more times. Calhoun then grabbed her and picked her up, Gomez testified.
She recalled both of her feet were off the ground. He then body-slammed her to the ground, she said.
Her blow-by-blow account on the first day of Calhoun's misdemeanor battery trial caused him to mumble so loud that Judge Denise Whitehead asked him to quit.
"Me?" a surprised Calhoun reacted to the admonishment.
Calhoun will get his chance to testify once the prosecution finishes its case. That could take a few days since there are more than 30 people on the witness list -- many of them students who saw the confrontation between Calhoun and Gomez and pulled him off of her.
At Fresno City, Calhoun taught education classes to help students become future teachers. He had worked there since 1988.
The State Center Community College District board fired him about seven weeks after his arrest in connection with the March 22 confrontation with Gomez in the Old Administration Building.
The trial pits two people with strong personalities.
Calhoun, 69, served as an Army intelligence officer during the Vietnam War era and spent seven years as a county supervisor in Wisconsin. He has a doctorate in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin.
Elected twice to the Fresno City Council, Calhoun termed out in January 2009. In 2008, he made an unsuccessful bid to become a Fresno County supervisor.
In opening statements of the trial, Calhoun's lawyer, Roger Nuttall, said his client likes rules and plays by them and expects respect for his position as a teacher.
Gomez, 20, a graduate of Sunnyside High School, is a journalism major at FCC and opinion editor of the Rampage campus newspaper. She told jurors that she has sued Calhoun in civil court for personal injury damages.
In opening statements, prosecutor Michael Brummel said Calhoun snapped after Gomez cursed him for interrupting her class. "She used words," Brummel told the jury. "He responded with physical violence."
But Nuttall said Calhoun may have grabbed Gomez's arm, but he never intended to hurt her. Nuttall said Calhoun was acting in self-defense once she slugged him and broke a tooth, knocked off his glasses and bloodied his face.
Both sides agree Gomez was in a Chicano-Latino Studies class in which substitute instructor Michael Medrano was late in handing out an exam.
Gomez testified that Calhoun was upset because he was supposed to teach his class in the room starting at 11 a.m. that day.
Gomez recalled that Calhoun showed up shortly after 10:50 a.m. and began yelling at Medrano, telling him that his students had to turn in their exams and leave.
"You have to get out. It's my time," Calhoun said, according to Gomez.
"He appeared angry and annoyed at us," Gomez told the jury of eight men and four women.
She said Medrano apologized and asked for a few more minutes, but Calhoun said no. Gomez said she turned in her unfinished exam, and on her way out of the classroom she cursed Calhoun.
She said Calhoun then followed her outside the classroom, grabbed her arm and demanded to know her name. But she declined to identify herself.
She said she cursed Calhoun because "I was upset that he disrupted the test and yelled at our professor." She also admitted that it's not right to curse a teacher. "It's not my job," Gomez testified. "But it was hurtful to see him speak to another man like that."
Gomez testified that Calhoun didn't direct his ire at her and never slugged her. But she said he roughed her up and, once she was was slammed to the ground, he held his right fist in the air as if he was going to slug her. Students, however, pulled her to safety, she said, while other students restrained Calhoun.
Police photographs reveal she suffered a scrape on her left arm and near her left knee cap. "I was very shaky and scared," Gomez told the jury.
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