Originally posted at 10:55 a.m. Aug. 26, 2013.
In a surprise move mid-trial, former Shorecliffs Middle School teacher Richard Rack pleaded guilty today to four of the eight counts of sexual misconduct with students.
Last week, the prosecution had rested its case. Defense attorney David Cohn was expecting to present his case today during which Rack was scheduled to take the stand.
The four counts he pleaded guilty to are:
- One felony count of oral copulation of a minor under 16
- One felony count of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14
- Two felony counts of lewd acts on a child age 14 or 15.
The four counts address
accusations from the three primary victims, said Deputy District Attorney
The other four counts will be dismissed, said Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson.
Rack now faces a possible sentence of up to 10 years. Hanson warned the former math teacher that she would include in her sentencing decision all of the testimony from the trial’s first three days.
“The court is making no promises to you in sentencing of this case,” Hanson told Rack.
The victims and Rack himself will have an opportunity to make statements before the sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 18, Hanson said.
The plea came as a complete surprise to Woods, who spent the weekend preparing to cross-examine the defense’s witnesses. At 9 a.m., when the court opened and deputies brought in Rack, he said, “Can I talk?” Woods reported.
“It’s never happened to me, and I’ve done 50 cases,” Woods said.
Woods believed her case was going well.
“I thought each of those victims was brave to come up there, and they came across truthfully,” she said.
The most sexually explicit testimony came from victim No. 3 (Patch is not identifying the under-aged victims), who said she maintained a sexual relationship with Rack for months, touching his genitals 20 times in the classroom and orally copulating him in her San Juan Capistrano home when no one else was present.
Cohn told reporters he was about to present what he thought was a strong case that could have questioned the credibility of that witness and others. He did acknowledge the text messages shared in court were damaging to his client.
“He wasn’t going to dispute the text messages … some of those text messages had strong innuendo,” Cohn said outside of the courtroom.
Cohn, too, said the move came as a surprise to even him. When the two met in jail Friday for trial prep, Rack mentioned a guilty plea as a possibility, but didn’t seem serious about it at the time, Cohn said.
“He still indicated that he didn’t do anything with sexual intent,” Rack’s attorney said.