A 16-year-old boy testified Thursday that two years ago he and a middle-school teacher at Tenaya Middle School would engage in oral sex inside her classroom.
The teenager, who said he was 13 at the time, is the key witness in the trial of Justine Karen Nelson, 33, the former teacher charged with felony lewd or lascivious acts with a minor and oral copulation.
Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Liz Owen, the teenager said he was in eighth grade when he began hanging out in Nelson’s classroom during lunch time.
“She was the cool teacher that everyone liked,” he said. “If you had a bad day you could talk to her.”
But the alleged victim’s relationship with Nelson turned from friendly to sexual. He testified Thursday that at one point Nelson texted him, saying that he was cute and she wanted to see him in her room.
It was during their first encounter alone that he and Nelson began kissing and it soon led to oral sex, he testified.
Owen asked the teenager several times if he in any way coerced Nelson to give him oral sex and he repeatedly said no.
What is not in dispute is that the two had a relationship. Owen produced dozens of pages of texts and direct messages between the two on the social media app Instagram. In the those messages, Nelson refers to the teenager by pet names, including “boo, honey and babe.”
She also reminded the teenager repeatedly not to tell anyone about their conversations: “Oh god, don’t tell anyone we talk.”
The student would plead for nude photos of her. And a few times Nelson complied. She dropped her head slightly as the jury was shown a photo of her in an open shirt with her breasts exposed.
At times during his testimony, the teenager struggled to remember details or dates of specific events and times. During cross examination, Nelson’s attorney, Roger Nuttall, picked at the youth’s lapse in memory.
Nuttall reminded him of conflicting statements he made during his deposition and in interviews with police.
The teenager could not remember whether Nelson gave him oral sex several times or more than 10 times. He also told Nuttall he was mistaken when he said in a sworn deposition that the first time he and Nelson were alone in her classroom they just kissed.
The youth said he was nervous when police questioned him about his relationship with Nelson. He didn’t want to jeopardize his potential basketball career.
“You think being nervous is a reason to lie to someone?” Nuttall asked.
The teenager answered, “No.”
Nuttall also made the jury aware that the teenager’s family has filed a civil lawsuit against Fresno Unified School District over what happened to him at Tenaya.
The trial resumes Friday in Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan’s courtoom in Fresno County Superior Court.