Yamamoto could face trial in June

Former teacher waives prelim hearing; DA adds charges
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald editor
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Matthew Yamamoto, accused of sex crimes against a minor, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Monday, instead opting to start the trial process in June. After an unusual request was made, the former teacher might be allowed to have a supervised meeting with one of his alleged victims.

The 33-year-old former Whitney High School physics teacher remains behind bars, his bail set at $500,000.

Yamamoto was arrested Sept. 17 after Rocklin police officers received information regarding an unlawful intimate relationship between the teacher and a juvenile student. He was arrested for child molestation and arranging a meeting with a minor for purposes of committing a lewd act. Soon after his arrest, Yamamoto faced 11 counts, including several felonies, for crimes against two minor girls. The total as of Monday’s hearing is 17 counts, with added allegations that he attempted to dissuade a witness from reporting a crime, attempted to dissuade a witness from attending or giving testimony in a legal inquiry, conspiracy to obstruct justice and violation of a restraining order, a misdemeanor. He’s also charged with communicating with a second minor with intent to commit an unlawful offense and child molestation, offenses that allegedly took place between September 2010 and June 2011. The previous two charges of unlawful sex with a minor have been changed to two felony charges of sexual penetration by a foreign object.

The original charges included two counts of oral copulation with a person under 18 and two counts of attempted unlawful sexual intercourse. Yamamoto has entered not guilty pleas to all the allegations.

He was remanded back into custody in November, his bail increased from $100,000, after Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Macumber alleged that, despite a restraining order obtained by Jane Doe’s parents, there had been daily contact between the two via email, up until the day before his arraignment. Those emails, Macumber said, discussed details of the case, including a plan that the alleged victim would commit perjury at the preliminary hearing and not “come clean” until Yamamoto told her it was OK to do so.

Yamamoto sat quietly in his orange jumpsuit Monday as Judge Mark Curry asked him if he understood what waiving his preliminary hearing meant, which Yamamoto said he did.

At a preliminary hearing, Curry said, “The district attorney would have to prove a standard of probable cause for each of those counts.” By waiving the preliminary hearing, Yamamoto will be held to answer on all charges against him.

Yamamoto’s attorney, Shannon Baker, said she had counseled her client fully on the decision and feels he understands its benefits and detriments. Trial assignment will take place at 8:30 a.m. Friday, June 14, in Department 33 of the Santucci Justice Center in Roseville.

Attorney Nina Salarno Ashford, representing the alleged victim, had an out-of-the-ordinary request to make of the judge.

“It’s an unusual request,” Salarno Ashford admitted. “We are asking the court –and both parties are in agreement, prosecutor and defense – there’s a criminal restraining order; however, for reasons, emotional health reasons, it has been suggested that Jane Doe 1 be allowed one supervised visitation at the jail with the defendant.”

Salarno Ashford would be present at the visitation, as would a therapist and the defense attorney. Curry said that in order to do that, a new restraining order will have to be prepared that includes specific language regarding the visitation.

 “Obviously, with any type of sexual assault case, there’s a lot of trauma to the victim,” Salarno Ashford explained after the court appearance. “And the request was made on her behalf because it’s the belief of professionals that it will help her deal with the trauma.”