Middle-school teacher claims student threatened her into giving oral sex, detective testifies

Justine Nelson
Justine Nelson

The student who says he was sexually molested by a middle-school teacher can’t be trusted, a defense attorney alluded Friday.

Veteran defense attorney Roger Nuttall, who is representing former Tenaya Middle school teacher Justine Karen Nelson, grilled the 16-year-old student during the second day of testimony in Nelson’s trial.

Meanwhile, during trial a detective also testified Nelson had claimed the teen had threatened her into giving him oral sex.

The teen, who was 13 when the alleged offenses happened, testified Thursday the defendant gave him oral sex at least three times, and possibly more, while on the school campus in 2016.

Nelson, 33, is charged with felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor and oral copulation.

Nuttall spent most of Friday morning trying to poke holes in the teenager’s testimony, especially about when the first alleged act of oral sex happened.

Nuttall questioned the teen about his statements to police and detectives that at times appeared contradictory.

Initially, the teen told police Nelson gave him oral sex once before his 14th birthday and then at least two different times after that. But in an interview with a Fresno County District Attorney’s office investigator, the teenager said the number of times was significantly higher.

Nuttall said he counted more than 40 times that the teenager claims the acts occurred. That would include between class periods, during lunch and after school.

“And most of that happened in a two month period,” Nuttall said.

The teenager said he was nervous when being questioned by police or school officials. “I was afraid I was going to get in trouble,” he said.

Fresno police detective Sylvia Martinez testified Friday that during an interview with Nelson, the teacher initially accused the teenager of forcing himself on her. But she soon recanted that story and later admitted to having a sexual relationship with the student and sending semi-nude photos of herself.

Martinez testified that Nelson felt manipulated by the teenager. Nelson told her there were rumors circulating on campus that she and the student were having a sexual relationship. Martinez testified Nelson told her the teenager threatened to tell people it was true, if she didn’t give him oral sex.

Nelson, who was characterized by the student as one of the “cool” teachers, was also coming under scrutiny from other students and fellow instructors, including teacher Grant Pullen.

Pullen testifed Friday he complained to school administrators about Nelson’s lack of professionalism and her inability to establish boundaries between herself and students.

He said students would be late to his class because they were hanging out in Nelson’s class during her free period. One of those students was the teenage victim. One time, he caught the student coming out of her classroom when he was supposed to be on a bathroom break.

“I asked him what the the heck was he doing in there,” Pullen said. “I was angry.”

Pullen said he was so concerned about Nelson’s behavior that he also spoke to her husband, a physical education teacher at Tenaya.

When asked by Nuttall, what Pullen thought of the teenager’s honesty, he said: “I would not trust him very much.”

The testimony in the trial continues next week.