Saba and von Metzke. This may be the culmination of months of controversy
  • Saba and von Metzke. This may be the culmination of months of controversy
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Eric von Metzke, a long-time teacher at the San Diego Junior Theatre, was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison. On May 12, he pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor more than three years younger than he (he just turned 36). He also pleaded guilty to oral copulation with a person under 18 years of age. She is a Jane Doe.

Von Metzke bio from Junior Theater website (now deleted)

"All indications are that the alleged victim was a Junior Theatre student, although as yet I don't have confirmation of that," says attorney Matt Valenti, who is leading a group of parents, attendees, and others who are concerned about possible financial irregularities, moral and ethical misbehavior, and a coverup by the board of Junior Theatre.

This may be the culmination of months of controversy and internal rancor at Balboa Park's Junior Theatre, as reported at length in the Reader.

Valenti prepared a 110-page complaint that he sent to the district attorney, mayor, and council. On page 60 and 61 are eye-opening references to possible misbehavior. Valenti refers to a teenage "sleepover party" in which several teens were photographed in bed together. According to the report, a female teacher left the organization in 2013 after allegations that she had a relationship with a 16-year-old Junior Theatre boy. They had allegedly gone to Disneyland together and spent the night in a hotel there, according to the report. The female was either allowed to resign or terminated by Jimmy Saba, general director, the report alleges.

In January of 2016 a staff member was terminated, allegedly because of an inappropriate relationship with one or more teenage students, according to the report.

A major ruckus was caused when Saba charged unannounced into the girls' changing room and shook a young girl by the shoulders, scolding her for mocking him. Two other key staffers are believed to have reported the incident to the board. Those staffers were fired mysteriously, as described in Valenti's report.

"Once again, Saba and the board apparently covered up child abuse allegations," and failed to call law enforcement, says Valenti.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Comments

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 11:05 a.m.

Mike Murphy: I think a more pertinent question is how many teachers at San Diego Junior Theatre had sex with minors, and whether the board covered up such possible incidents. Best, Don Baudeer

6

MURPHYJUNK June 22, 2017 @ 12:49 p.m.

its sad to think how many are attracted to jobs like this just for that reason.

5

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 1:30 p.m.

Murphyjunk: Sadly, what you say is true. Sexual predators are attracted to jobs involving young girls. (There are also cases of adult women having sex with underage boys including, allegedly one such incident that occurred at San Diego Junior Theatre.) School teachers and other teachers (such as at Junior Theatre) have a solemn obligation to avoid sexual contact with the young.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I do not understand why a man 36 years old would be interested in pursuing a sexual relationship with an underage girl. Best, Don Bauder

6

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 2:15 p.m.

Murphyjunk: The state's sentencing memorandum, which leans heavily on interviews with von Metzke, suggests that he shows some remorse -- but I suspected upon reading the report that his remorse related more to the fact that he got caught than the fact that he committed the crimes. He admitted that he knew better than have sex with a girl under 18, but still went ahead. As I have said, he also had sex with another girl under 18 whom he knew at San Diego Junior Theatre, according to the sentencing memorandum. Best, Don Bauder

0

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ noon

HERE IS A LINK TO MATT VALENTI'S REPORT, WHICH HAS BEEN SENT TO MANY LAWMAKERS: link text

5

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 1:36 p.m.

Matt Valenti: You have done an excellent job exposing activities at San Diego Junior Theatre. Above I have posted a link to your 110-page accusation.

Right now, I should clarify something. In my original post, I said it was not clear whether the girl violated by von Metzke was with the junior theater. Yes, she was, according to a police report. He was a director and she his assistant for one show at the theater. There is more: he had sex with another underage (17 year old) girl who was connected with Junior Theatre. Best, Don Bauder

6

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 1:44 p.m.

Frances Cohen FX Mua: Your story is very sad, if true. I remember very well an incident I went through while financial editor of the Union-Tribune. A terrific reporter who worked for me was digging up dubious activities of prominent executives, who secretly complained to Copley management.

I defended the reporter in every instance, because his reporting was unquestioned. Then, as a member of the guild, he wanted to make a strong complaint on an entirely different issue. I told him, "Remember, they won't fire you for this move. They will cook up a a false issue and fire you for that." Thank goodness, he went ahead, and while management made his life miserable, he survived. Best, Don Bauder

4

MURPHYJUNK June 22, 2017 @ 1:59 p.m.

good reason to stand up for yourself ( in person, face to face if you can)

3

MURPHYJUNK June 22, 2017 @ 3:24 p.m.

I was thinking of a face to face on a more personal level, no lawyers involved.

1

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 6:46 p.m.

Murphyjunk: With no lawyers involved, you may be able to smack the other person in the kisser. Best, Don Bauder

2

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 2:21 p.m.

Murphyjunk: Yes, it's a good idea to stand up for yourself face-to-face -- IF you won't break down under a lawyer's tough questioning. Notice how many times in prominent criminal trials the defense will not put the defendant on the stand. This is the defense's right; there is nothing wrong with that per se. But I always wonder why the defendant won't go in front of the jury. Best, Don Bauder

3

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 3:19 p.m.

SOME INTERESTING POINTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT'S SENTENCING MEMORANDUM: In an interview with the police, von Metzke confirmed that the youth he had sex with, Jane Doe, was an assistant to him while he was a teacher at San Diego Junior Theatre.

He had sex with a second girl under 18 from the theater. He was the director of a certain well-known play and she was his stage manager. Jane Doe, a friend of the second girl, told the police that at the time she met von Metzke, he was dating another girl connected with San Diego Junior Theatre, who was only 16 years old sat the time. That was the second underage girl he had sex with.

Jane Doe told the police that in her first sexual relationship with von Metzke, she thought he had been drinking heavily and perhaps had used marijuana. That night, he induced her to perform oral sex on him and they also had conventional sex.

Jane Doe told police that on one occasion, they were having conventional sex, and she was crying, but he was paying no attention to her and was "in his own head" at the time, she said.

Von Metzke told Jane Doe not to tell anyone of their sexual encounter.

At the time of their sexual experiences, both were emotionally involved with another person.

Through texting, Jane Doe told a female official of San Diego Junior Theatre of her experiences with von Metzke. The official told Jane Doe, "I can't know this. What you did with that teacher is a crime. If it comes out that I knew and didn't report it, I will be in trouble. Stop texting me." The female official did not report the information initially, but then told the interim education director. The school had a meeting with von Metzke. After he got out of the meeting, he called Jane Doe and told her to lie about what happened. If she didn't deny it, "he would hurt himself and she was ruining his life," he told her, according to the memorandum. Initially, she lied to the police. She told her parents what happened. The school went to her parents and von Metzke was suspended.

In later conversations, von Metzke told her he feared going to prison. He was arrested March 14. Initially, he lied to the police, but later told about both relationships with underage girls. He claimed that Jane Doe was "flirtatious" with him. Finally, he gave more details about his sexual experiences with both minor girls from San Diego Junior Theatre. Best, Don Bauder

7

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 3:25 p.m.

Charles Cozic: You are describing what several others are saying. They believe the board is not facing these internal problems, and trying to cover them up.

To the best of my memory, i have never personally known anybody connected with San Diego Junior Theatre -- even parents or audience members. I remember talking with a lawyer on the board years ago on a completely different topic. But a lot of people have come forward; Valenti's report is thorough and well-researched. It looks to me that this organization has to come clean and reform. Best, Don Bauder

7

Formerstudent June 22, 2017 @ 3:46 p.m.

The Board and James Saba are creating huge liabilities for the theatre. Once they knew Von Metzke was dating a student it should have been reported to CPS immediately. They kept him on as a teacher knowing he had broken the law.

What if the victim's family decides to sue the theatre? It would likely mean an end to this wonderful organization. The board members and James Saba may also be personally liable for their refusal to follow the law.

I hope the family uses the power they have to make positive change at JT.

7

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 8:21 p.m.

Formerstudent: That is the major question: did the administrators and the board cover up von Metzke's activities with minors? We know a female administrator delayed passing on the details awhile (we don't know how long) before she passed them on to another official. The von Metzke case must be investigated as it relates to the board of trustees. And investigators should find if there are other such offenses. Best, Don Bauder

5

jennvalenti June 22, 2017 @ 4:23 p.m.

Once again the Board has proven their lack of judgement and ability to run Junior Theatre. Eric Von Metzke was allowed to remain at Junior Theatre as a regular teacher after having a sexual relationship with a minor. The Board and James Saba exposed unsuspecting children to a known sexual predator. Are they really surprised he broke the law again and took advantage of another girl?

Similary, James Saba was allowed to remain at the theatre after battering a minor. I fear for what child will be his next victim.

The Board members are opening up themselves and the theatre to litigation which could lead to the closing of this organization. The theatre is already struggling financially. Why are they putting the theatre and themselves at such great risk?

The Board is incapable of running this organization and refuses to put children's safety first. We need the Attorney General to step in and get control of this situation before more damage is done.

6

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 8:25 p.m.

jennvalenti: You have hit the nail on the head. After Junior Theatre officials learned of von Metzke's revolting activities, he was SUSPENDED. Suspended? That's all? For how long was he suspended? Did he come back and deal with students again? Best, Don Bauder

4

ccozic June 22, 2017 @ 8:49 p.m.

Jimmy Saba has long been in Eric's corner. If Saba could have covered it up, I am sure he would have (with the Board's OK of course, because this puppet cannot act on his own). The Board is all about covering up things that make them look bad, just look at his girls' dressing room barge-in.

5

Don Bauder June 22, 2017 @ 8:28 p.m.

Francia Cohen FX Mua: Only dishonest people pull devious tricks such as you describe. Period. Best, Don Bauder

5

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 7:31 a.m.

TruthTastesBetteerThanChocolate: If what you say is true, and the board had any inkling of it, government may have to step into this situation and oust the board. I think it has the power to do so, armed with Valenti's powerful report. Best, Don Bauder

7

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 7:33 a.m.

TruthTastesBetterThanChocolate: I am not aware of what you say about Cucuzzella, who was mysteriously ousted by the board. Best, Don Bauder

1

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 7:35 a.m.

TruthTastesBetterThanChocolate: I agree: the issue should be saving the children. It should also be about jailing the predators. Best, Don Bauder

4

Commenter_65 June 23, 2017 @ 12:46 a.m.

Hey guys there is a lot of hearsay flying around this comments thread. Some things being written are highly inaccurate. When I was around JT quite some years ago, there was an incident that could have been easily swept under the rug, but it was dealt with appropriately by the board and then-executive director. Having checked in on the "internals" of the organization peripherally since then, I can say that the leadership's integrity of character I knew back then has been maintained through successive generations. And there is nothing beyond circumstantial evidence to suggest that the current board and director somehow are in cahoots... and to do what exactly? If you look hard enough at any complex organization, there is a seeming-conspiracy ready to be found.

Admittedly, there have been some other recent circumstances handled in poor fashion by said leadership. But those are not related to this. And do you truly believe that these members of the community who represent one of the demonstrably most-impactful youth organizations in the U.S. are all conspiring to cover up child-abuse? Theatre teachers are easily come by and have a high turnover, and production directors are often used only once or twice anyway. What would JT have gained by harboring this teacher's actions?

I'm not saying the organization is without its issues. But it seems unfair to lambast them and their mission to improve the lives of youth, with your likely misunderstanding of circumstances, even as personal as it all must feel. You all know what self-affirming experiences they have been able to accomplish for their students in the past. Would you instead help get them back to prospering for the kids, and help keep bad things from happening by getting involved again? You've still got power in this.

1

jennvalenti June 23, 2017 @ 8:41 a.m.

The Board and James Saba are mandated reporters. Actually anyone working at the theatre is a mandated reporter too. If they chose not to report inappropriate behavior by a teacher to CPS they broke the law. That is reason enough to cover up the abusive behavior.

I honestly do not know why they would not make CPS reports. For anyone who works with children it is a part of the job.

It has been said that JT did not provide their staff with mandated reporting training for years. They just recently had thier first training in over a decade. Once again JT is not being run by competent ethical people. By not providing their staff with proper training they have once again chosen not to protect the children and have left the theatre open to huge liabilities. It is time for a change.

6

Commenter_65 June 24, 2017 @ 2:10 p.m.

Absolutely true about mandated reporting. Therefore, could you please link us to the resource stating that the executive director did NOT report the illegal interactions between Metzke and the underage girl?

0

jennvalenti June 25, 2017 @ 10:19 a.m.

Commentator 65

Which underage girl are you referring to? There is more than one here.

4

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:17 p.m.

Commenter_65: In my latest column, there are interviews with both insiders and outsiders about illegal activities not being reported. Finally, von Metzke was reported to the police. But it took too long. Best, Don Bauder

2

ColleenB June 25, 2017 @ 10:36 a.m.

" What would JT have gained by harboring this teacher's actions?"

JT would gain nothing. However, the members of the board would gain the appearance of actually being effective and putting the well-being of the students above their own selfish interests-such as remaining in these positions. Also, the biggest reason they would have to not report things or even cover up issues is that if no one knows, there are no repercussions-legal or otherwise.

4

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:20 p.m.

ColleenB: Agreed. Valenti cites lethargy as one of the reasons there was no timely action on von Metzke and on others, such as the young female teacher who took a 16-year-old boy to Disneyland. They stayed overnight. She was fired -- but then hired back. Best, Don Bauder

1

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 7:39 a.m.

Commenter_65: I agree that we should all be careful about what we say about individuals. And that goes for the board, too: critics should play fair.

Valenti deserves praise for what he had the courage to do. He has brought the subject out in the open, where it should be. But we all have to be careful. Best, Don Bauder

7

jennvalenti June 23, 2017 @ 8:16 a.m.

TruthTastesBetterThanChocolate,

If you took the time to read the complaint you would understand that it does not ask for anyone to be rehired. You would also know that it was written to the Attorney General of California and sent to the District Attorney as well as other city officials - not the media. Over time the media has taken an interest and has read and quoted the complaint.

The complaint requests an independent investigation of the organization and suggests removal of James Saba and the Board. The entire focus of the complaint is the safety of the children. If the Board and James Saba have nothing to hide they should welcome an independent investigation. Not only would it clear their names, but it would allow JT to heal and move on. If I were wrongly accused of such gross mismanagement I would speak up for myself. Their silence speaks volumes.

It seems you agree that there are serious problems at the theatre. You should welcome city officials looking into this matter to protect the kids.

7

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:01 p.m.

jennvalenti: The purpose of the report has always been to protect the children. Best, Don Bauder

4

EngineerBella June 23, 2017 @ 9:35 a.m.

Wow, this just gets worse and worse. It's sad, because JT is such an amazing theatre production company on the face of it--the shows I've seen are out of this world and provide kids with a stellar experience, provided they are safe. Until these matters are all resolved, however, I don't feel that they are, so have sought out other youth theatre opportunities for kids in the meantime. JT needs an accountable (completely new) board, or I imagine most families that know what's going on won't come back, and that's too bad for all the innocent teachers and directors as well as the kids who could have such a professional production experience at these facilities in Balboa Park, but can't for safety reasons. Thank you for your detailed reporting of this issue.

7

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 3:59 p.m.

EngineerBella: The board has crawled into a shell and refused to give information, other than meaningless statements probably composed by lawyers. The board must come clean -- and I don't mean taking out an ad and saying how competent it is. Best, Don Bauder

4

birdrockwaverly June 23, 2017 @ 1:05 p.m.

After reading all these postings and allegations and opinions, I predict that you can say goodbye to this Junior Theater if much of this is true. If they were already teetering on financial insolvency, it's going to be over soon.

6

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:02 p.m.

birdrockwaverly: Insolvency is certainly a possibility now, but it doesn't have to be. Best, Don Bauder

4

EngineerBella June 23, 2017 @ 1:22 p.m.

I don't see any ad hominem (https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem") attacks coming from the Valentis, it seems everything they have said is backed up by evidence. I am not as knowledgable about this whole situation as I'm sure you all are, but perhaps there is no evidence of this person you cite being a child abuser, or does "noted" mean "documented" or "convicted"? Regardless, I'm curious why you say funding needs to be completely pulled. If there is a new board, which is accountable for everyone's actions and which implements safety procedures to prevent all the kinds of things we've been hearing about, it seems to benefit everyone to continue to have a youth theatre company in Balboa Park, as there are other youth theatre groups where these things don't seem to happen.

5

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:05 p.m.

EngineerBella: If you read the report, which is posted here, you will agree that there is no ad hominem. It is carefully composed and written. (Valenti is a lawyer.) Best, Don Bauder

4

EngineerBella June 23, 2017 @ 1:46 p.m.

The board is responsible for firing due to misconduct, and by all accounts the current board has not done that--note the very friendly-looking picture of Saba and von Metzke in the article header. I think that's the point of "ousting the board" rather than calling for an outright shutdown. It's hard to imagine that after all this media attention and any litigation or government action, any new board wouldn't be exceptionally sensitive to any hint of misconduct, criminal or otherwise, and take swift action. This is why, I think, calls for ousting the board predominate, lest the baby is thrown out with the bathwater.

6

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:10 p.m.

EngineerBella: There are questions that I might get answers to tonight: What training to teachers get about sex with minors? Are they told they are in a position of trust and authority and therefore potentially more vulnerable if they cross the line? Was the general manager informed of the violations?

Frankly, I cannot see why a teacher should be allowed to date -- much less have sex with -- a student half his age. For a teacher, a student should be OFF LIMITS. Best, Don Bauder

5

Commenter_65 June 24, 2017 @ 2:40 p.m.

By "student half his age", you meant to say "adult employee and co-worker".

Call me crazy, but I think people need to learn about not having sex with minors a little earlier than adulthood. Why are you expecting a struggling non-profit to "train" teachers about statutory rape? Do they also need to train teachers to wash their hands after pooping? Is Junior Theatre the place Metzke should have learned that sex with minors is not okay? Where should the rest of society be learning this, if JT IS responsible for such a thing?

I'm willing to bet that there is a clause somewhere in their contracts for employment that addresses such an obvious conflict.

0

jennvalenti June 25, 2017 @ 11:41 a.m.

Commentator_65

Are you implying that JT couldn't afford to give their employees mandated reporter training? This is crucial training that anyone who cares about kids would support providing. There are many situations when those who serve kids need to call CPS. Just this summer a child at JT's summer camp came to class with marks on their body (not put their by JT). Nobody seemed to know what to do about it. Why?? Because they didn't have this training. Anyone who has received mandated reporter training would know immediately to call CPS in that situation.

At this training you will be told it is against the law NOT to report even if you just have a feeling that something is wrong. You do not need hard evidence of abuse. That work is left to CPS.

JT has a million dollar budget. How much could a 2 hour training possibly cost? If they can't find it in their budget to protect the kids they serve then what are they doing running this organization?

As Matt Valenti's complaint details, James Saba and the Board are responsible for the gross mismanagement of JT. That includes mismanaging their finances, employees and protecting the children they serve.

2

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:12 p.m.

EngineerBella: I don't think anyone wants an "outright shutdown" of the San Diego Junior Theatre. What's needed is reform. Best, Don Bauder

5

Commenter_65 June 24, 2017 @ 2:30 p.m.

Try out this scenario: What if the board actually did fire employees due to misconduct, but the misconduct was in fact from the two people they fired, and not the executive director? And then because the two who were fired happened to be so beloved by the community, that self-righteous parents demanded answers and got angry when they didn't receive answers? Why wouldn't the board give answers? To protect the fired employees from being tarnished in the community for their misconduct.

What if you're all barking up the wrong tree?

And then what if none of that had any relation to the illicit actions of the very part-time independent contractor that this article is actually about?

0

LindaTurner June 25, 2017 @ 10:01 a.m.

Commenter_65

Nice try. Sorry this isn't opposites day.

Read the complaint sent to the CA Attorney General, Mayor of San Diego and SD City Attorney. You'll find facts there not a spin on the truth.

Best, Linda

3

Don Bauder June 30, 2017 @ 10:05 a.m.

Linda Turner: The sentencing memorandum as well as Valenti's report should clear up some confusion. Best, Don Bauder

0

jennvalenti June 25, 2017 @ 10:30 a.m.

Commentator_65

If this is all inaccurate the Board should be providing us with such evidence. They aren't uneducated people. They have been asked time and time again to comment. Such articulate lawyers and PR people should be able to defend their actions.

It makes no difference if you are a part time or full time employee. JT's first job is to ensure the safety of the children they serve. Jimmy Saba and the Board are responsible for managing their employees. The buck stops there.

3

Don Bauder June 30, 2017 @ 10:07 a.m.

Jennvalenti; I agree that such activity should reported whether the predator is a part-time or full-time employee. Best, Don Bauder

0

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:28 p.m.

Commenter_65: I have had no bad reports about the two top employees who were fired. The board says it can't reveal personnel matters. That was an effective crutch for a number of months, then the media started asking questions. Best, Don Bauder

2

Bobbi June 23, 2017 @ 1:43 p.m.

Rational examination of the facts should be the deciding factor in the expected outcome of a situation. Angry pronouncements nor suggested misinterpretations of obviously proven facts will not lead to any truth in a conflict. It would appear that an investigation by a third party would be the best for everyone, especially the children. No matter what your perspective, ask yourself-how could an investigation of the board practices hurt the children. It may even make all the difference in the world. It certainly would have meant a great deal to at least two children! Bobbi

9

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:15 p.m.

Bobbi: The board claims it did an investigation. But it was obvious it was an "investigation" -- an inside job. Yes, a probe by a genuine outsider would be a good idea. Best, Don Bauder

6

Concerned2016 June 23, 2017 @ 2:55 p.m.

I have been following the SDJT situations since last year. These new allegations takes it to a new level. I have read all the comments and all the support that this accused teacher is receiving. It made me think. Why would he take a plea deal? I would never say I was guilty of anything if I were innocent. So I did a little investigating myself. Amazing with the internet you can find anything. At first I thought this was a he said, she said story. After reading the actual court documents, it has been proven that this man is indeed guilty and should have been sentence to much more time? How can a family defend his actions? I'm in another group and the mother and daughter are standing firm that this was her adult choice and the mother agrees. As being a father of three grown girls, there is no excuse for my daughter to date a man in his thirties, much less a mentor. He should have been reported immediately and dismissed. End of story!!! Judge for yourselves. This is public information. The girls parents should be ashamed and investigated themselves for abedding this criminal

. https://cdn.fbsbx.com/v/t59.2708-21/19292237_1569785346386393_3642766242835595264_n.pdf/People-v-Vonmetzke.pdf?oh=c9218b7b7e5324b0cae24faee97ab02a&oe=594EBD0E&dl=1

6

jennvalenti June 23, 2017 @ 3:19 p.m.

I just want to make a quick clarification here. Eric Von Metzke has been sentenced to 3 years in prison for having sex with a minor. The parent of this victim is not supporting Eric's actions. Nor is the victim.

Concerned2016 is referring to another family.

5

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:26 p.m.

jennvalenti: Yes, von Metzke had sex with two girls under 18, both of whom were (and may still be) connected with San Diego Junior Theatre. The incidents with the second girl, which began when she was 16, involved her parents.

I ask again: shouldn't an organization set up to help children have methods to discover and act upon teachers having sex with girls in the organization who are half the teacher's age?

For the teachers, the girls in the organization should be OFF LIMITS, except in matters relating directly to the junior theatre. Best, Don Bauder

5

Commenter_65 June 24, 2017 @ 2:05 p.m.

Yeah so this is actually totally inaccurate. The "second girl" was 18. You're propagating false information.

0

jennvalenti June 25, 2017 @ 10:22 a.m.

Commentator 65, Take the time to read the report. Eric had sex with one girl who was 17 way before the recent victim who was 16 years of age. If you follow the timeline the 2nd victim was 16.

2

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:37 p.m.

Commenter_65. You are wrong. Von Metzke had sex with one girl when she was 16, and another girl when she was 17. Best, Don Bauder

1

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 4:19 p.m.

Concerned2016: Yes, I used that document for much of my reporting. I am glad you posted it. I had a terrible time getting it in a form that could be posted. The police interviews with von Metzke are indeed eye-opening, as are the other parts of that document. Best, Don Bauder

5

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:41 p.m.

Concerned2016: Put legalities aside for a moment. Why does a man in his mid-30s pursue and sexually abuse girls who are below 18? Why did von Metzke hang around and socialize with the two underage girls and a boy a bit older? Certainly, he could wow and impress somebody half his age. Best, Don Bauder

2

loyaltyVSintegrity June 23, 2017 @ 4:38 p.m.

Where to start. For those who have been involved with San Diego Junior Theatre for more than 5 years or so you'll know that scandal has always found a way to penetrate the SDJT community. For those of you who have been around less than 5 years, sit down, shut up and read on.

All incidents that have happened more than 5 years ago: It's no secret that a former JT artistic director was FIRED by the board because he was a drug addict who had a serious problem, such a problem that they were smoking crack in the theatre. The board likes to think they kept this dirty little secret tucked away but they didn't. It's also no secret that a former director, who only directed the teen shows, would smoke pot with students and flirt with any of the male students who would give him the time of day. He was known for making crass and inappropriate comments in front of the students and the artistic director he worked for did nothing about it. Why? Probably because she was having students sleep over at her house. All of these things are FACTS.

To the student who claims to have fallen victim to Tony Cucuzzella, I'm sorry this is the forum in which you feel the need to divulge that information. Your parents have failed you because if any child of mine had come to me with such information, Mr. Cucuzzella would have been fired on the spot and be serving time in jail. If anyone had known such information, shame on them for not protecting you. I was a part of the program and Mr. Cucuzzella was a mentor to all of us. Did he teach us to work hard and did he set a high standard? Absolutely. Did we ever see his blood boil? Absolutely. Did he ever abuse me or my friends in any way? Absolutely not. Would I trust my own children with him? Absolutely. It's been years since I've even spoken to him so I'm not taking anyone's side, just stating my own feelings.

9

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:20 a.m.

loyalryVSintegrity: The people I have spoken with have good words for Cucuzzella as a teacher and mentor of young people. Best, Don Bauder

5

loyaltyVSintegrity June 23, 2017 @ 4:39 p.m.

The board has always had it's own motives and anyone wanting to help for the greater good has been pushed out by the JT alumni crowd who came back because they had nothing better to do. Thier cool alumni events draw the same crowd of people and they never seem to attract the folks they like to brag about having been in the program. Anyone who has ever had any real success post JT wouldn't come near that place these days. The board felt the need to fire a previous Executive Director because they didn't like him and felt JT needed a way to bring in more development revenue. I'm sure the former executive director is sitting back, thanking his lucky stars he's no where near this mess. Then there's the executive director who was hired because the board fell in love with him and thought he would fix all the financial problems. Well not only did he not last long but JT paid him a wad of cash to go away. In comes the current executive director who chose to keep the production manager around over the current interim artistic director. Yes, he was given an ultimatum and the executive director chose Mr. Cucuzzella.

If the current executive director had not been friends with board members he would have never been hired for the job. It's also no secret the board was pleased to see the current interim director leave a few years ago because they were aware of the favoritism game she played.

I won't go into much detail about the current 'Communications Director'. The one that only has experience in serving former underage JT students alcohol in her home.

8

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:24 a.m.

loyaltyVSintegrity: Students stated that the Junior Theatre was "a mess." That was when rumors of von Metzke and Does 1 and 2 were going around. Best, Don Bauder

5

loyaltyVSintegrity June 23, 2017 @ 4:42 p.m.

On to the story at hand, a victim is a victim is a victim. There is no excuse for what Eric VonMetzke did. NONE. The the mothers of all victims: help your daughters heal. If your daughter feels ERic VonMetzke is the love of her life, help her know her value and teach her to have more respect for herself. To the fathers of the victims, please do the same. He's serving time for committing an inexcusable crime.

I know the current executive director and I'm sure he considers me a friend, well, Jimmy Saba, it's time to move on. Any good you have done for this organization will forever be tarnished by the incidents over the last year. The lesson here folks, once you leave the organization as an 18 year old, go do big, beautiful things and cherish the time you had at SDJT. No need to come back for a job, or to be on the board, some things are better left behind. If you want to continue to support the place, write a check, see a show. I did that for many years but sadly, even that has come to an end due to the fact that I will no longer support the organization. My kids never got to be a part of the place but maybe that's for the best. Lesson in all of this, LOYALTY is worth nothing is there's no integrity, accountability or ethics involved.

Mr. Bauder, I applaud you for your diligence on the news regarding the organization. I'm curious, have you continued to reach out to Mr. Saba and the board for thier side of the latest story? How can the organization possibly survive?

9

LindaTurner June 23, 2017 @ 7 p.m.

loyaltyVSintegrity,

Thank you!

I did exactly what you have done. Last year when Tony & Rayme were fired I knew something was very wrong at JT.

I cancelled my season tickets, resigned from the auxiliary and refused to donate another dime or hour of my time to JT until Jimmy Saba and the Board of Trustees have all been removed. The safety of the children at Junior Theatre is not up for debate.

A very hard working, diligent group of Junior Theatre fans have been fighting to get the truth out and to save JT from destruction. We've been called many names and even threatened.

Good decent employees with decades of employment at JT resigned from Junior Theatre; employees who cared about the well being of the children.

The truth is finally coming out. The facts are now in their faces. We weren't lying or exaggerating. We weren't on a witch hunt. We were trying to protect the children of SD Junior Theatre and hopefully save a wonderful 70 year institution for future generations of children.

The battle isn't over.

Mayor Faulconer may want to think twice about any future photo op with Gil Cabrera. Cabrera was very much involved in this mess.

Mara Elliot, the SD city attorney, may want to have a discussion with a couple of attorneys in her office whom happen to be on the SDJT Board of Trustees.

And the CA Attorney General needs to act on the 100+ page complaint sent in May.

Thank you again speaking up.

My best, Linda Turner

6

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 9:05 p.m.

Linda: You did the right thing. I don't know that it will do any good, but at least you, and Matt Valenti and many others, gave it your best shot. I have more information and intend to make another post tomorrow (Saturday) after a couple of more interviews. Best, Don Bauder

5

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 9:02 p.m.

loyaltyVSintegrity: Yes, of course I tried to get to the board and the so-called media director for my first two items on the junior theater. I got absolutely nothing, other than reference to a statement that had gone out the previous year. The media director told me that no one on the staff had any idea why two whistleblowers had been fired. They weren't told about it. Are you kidding? This is the reason that thus far, the third time around, I haven't gone to them for their side. I have been in financial investigative journalism for about 43 years and if I get nothing from an organization once, then twice, I don't go back for a third time, especially if the first two statements were not in the slightest credible. If they want to come to me,they know where I am. Best, Don Bauder

7

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:26 a.m.

loyaltyVSintegrity: There are other people who like James Saba personally but who feel he should be moving on. Best, Don Bauder

6

LindaTurner June 23, 2017 @ 7:05 p.m.

Don Bauder,

Thank you for listening to and believing us.

Thank you for digging deeper than we were able to.

Thank you for reporting the truth.

Children and parents in San Diego salute you and owe you a debt of gratitude.

My very best, Linda Turner

6

Don Bauder June 23, 2017 @ 9:07 p.m.

Linda; I am just doing my job. Best, Don Bauder

6

Concerned2016 June 24, 2017 @ 5:45 p.m.

Can someone please tell me why SDJT has NOT released any kind of statement condemning the actions of their former teacher and director? Damage control? Reassurances that they will be vigilant and more responsible? If not for the public, but for the current students? It sounds careless not to. Ignoring the facts does not make a secure environment

6

loyaltyVSintegrity June 24, 2017 @ 6:32 p.m.

Probably because they think they have it all under control. If you've met any of them you'd know how delusional they are. They're probably having a toast and patting themselves on the back for how well they've handled the situation. In all seriousness, any real Board of Directors and ED would have had this PR nightmare addressed when it all started to unravel in January. Not JT, they like to keep things swept under the rug until it gets pulled out from under them.

7

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:31 a.m.

loyaltyVSintegrity: There is little doubt that the board should have done something earlier. It climbed into a shell. It should have answered Valenti's charges point by point.

It hired a local lawyer to investigate. But his " investigation" was biased. Best, Don Bauder

6

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:28 a.m.

Concerned 2016. Saba has released a statement. It should be quoted in another item that should go up today (Sunday). Best, Don Bauder

5

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:49 p.m.

Concerned2016: Saba released a statement recently. I allude to it in today's (June 25) post. Best, Don Bauder

1

facttroll June 24, 2017 @ 7 p.m.

Just a couple factual points in the midst of this discussion that feels very much like an echo chamber. From the Channel 10 News story.

Timeline of Events:

  • On January 9, 2017, the executive director of the theater reported to the San Diego Police what another teacher said was reported to her by the student about von Metzke. The student initially denied the allegations.
  • On January 23, the student and her mother told the police about the October incident.
  • On March 14, von Metzke was arrested and charged with three counts: (1) unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor more than three years younger, (2) oral copulation with a minor, and (3) sexual penetration by foreign object.
  • On April 21, von Metzke pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse and oral copulation.

If you watch the video of the accompanying story, a couple more facts. The two worked together at Junior Theater. The conduct occurred after the von Metzke picked her up after the victim (and there is no doubt here that she is a victim regardless of her age) snuck out of her home.

You can see the Channel 10 news video here: http://www.10news.com/news/san-diego-junior-theatre-eric-von-metzke-sex-with-minor

I know a lot of people on this thread appear to have issues with Junior Theater, but it appears the theater staff are who reported this to the police. Is that not what everyone in this thread is saying they should have done? Seems like they actually handled this situation correctly.

0

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:34 a.m.

facttroll: Another piece is coming up today (Sunday) that should shed more light on how long the organization waited to act. Best, Don Bauder

5

REY June 25, 2017 @ 11:07 a.m.

facttroll

Looking carefully at the sentencing memorandum it reads that the victim of Von Metzke's abuse reached out to a teaching artist at JT on November 3rd. Jane Doe confides in the teacher about what occurred with Von Metzke. the teacher's response? "I can't know this information. What you did with that teacher is a crime. If it comes out that I knew and didn't report it I will be in trouble. Just stop texting me." The teacher kept this information to herself and did not report it to JT's interim education director until January once the girl's parents were involved.

You state that the teaching staff handled this situation correctly? As you can see from her text the teacher was not concerned with the welfare of the child. Her main concern was keeping herself out of trouble.

6

facttroll June 25, 2017 @ 1:15 p.m.

I stated the theater handled it correctly. There are a lot of unknowns in what everyone is discussing on this board and that is my point. It sounds like as soon as the executive learned about it, it was reported to the police -- that is not in my mind a coverup. The original "teacher" that was told, but then failed to report, we do not know what happened to him/her right? Was that person disciplined or fired for failing to report it up the chain of command immediately. My only point was to say that you have an organization that actually reported this incident to the police and then you have commenters/article saying it is a big cover up. It just doesn't seem like a coverup when the organisation you say is covering things up is the same organisation that reports the issue to the police.

You also seem to be ascribing ill intent to this entire organisation. That is what I'm taking issue with. Bad things can happen. Decent people can try to do their best to react to such things and it may not be perfect. But covering up child abuse? You just seem to be painting with an awfully broad brush.

0

MattDValenti June 25, 2017 @ 2:09 p.m.

This is not the first time Junior Theatre has covered up allegations of child abuse. In fact, the executive director himself is facing such allegations from his own self-confessed battery on a child in the girls' dressing room.

Your theme seems to be "don't jump to conclusions." Yet you have jumped to the conclusion the theater handled it properly, when people with far more knowledge than you say otherwise.

I have written a 115 page complaint to the CA Attorney General detailing the Board's malfeasance in various serious controversies over the last year. (See link below.) The complaint is supported by over 500 citations to evidence and attaches 55 exhibits. Page 61, paragraph 2 specifically addresses this current situation with Eric Von Metzke. (The complaint was submitted March 15, the same day, by coincidence, that he was arrested.)

Have you read it?

Have you read the DA's sentencing memorandum which reveals that a teacher was alerted to the abuse on November 3, 2016, and yet the executive director did not call the police until January?

You could blame the teacher, but the buck stops with the leadership of an organization, and this leadership has proven multiple times that it cannot and must not be trusted.The evidence is out there for you to examine, if you so choose. If you choose not to, I suggest you close your profile and stop commenting on this situation.

http://jtoversightgroup.org/complaint-to-the-attorney-general/

2

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 8:01 p.m.

MattDValenti: I agree that it is important to read both your report and the sentencing memorandum. Both have been posted on this blog. Best, Don Bauder

3

jennvalenti June 25, 2017 @ 2:12 p.m.

Facttroll,

Did you read the comment I posted to you earlier? James Saba was aware Eric was dating a JT underage student since 2015. He knew at least a year in advance of this 2nd incident occurring. You think that is handling the situation properly? Saba actually broke the law by refusing to report Eric to the police in 2015.

I will state it again for you. If they had fired Eric back then, none of this would have happened. The Board and James Saba have opened themselves and the theater up to huge liabilities.

Have you taken the time to read any documents relating to the issues at JT?

2

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 8 p.m.

facttroll: You will see that the executive director ACTUALLY, to use your word, reported the incident, but he did not do so in a TIMELY fashion. And there are other questions -- say, the rehiring of a person once fired for child abuse. Best, Don Bauder

3

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 7:53 p.m.

REY: As in any case like this, people are popping up on both sides. I think facttroll will see things differently when he reads the Sunday piece, which is immediately above. Best, Don Bauder

4

jennvalenti June 25, 2017 @ 8:12 a.m.

Facttroll,

As with any news coverage there is more to the story as many will be finding out in upcoming coverage and articles being currently written. If you read the sentencing memorandum you will also see that Von Metzke had more than one illegal relationship with underage girls at JT.

He was dating a JT student in 2015. He was approached by James Saba about this relationship and told he would no longer be directing shows at JT because of this relationship. Here I agree JT did the right thing.

Unfortunately they did not fire Von Metzke but kept him on as a teacher. He even taught summer camp in 2016 with the student he was dating working as his assistant!

Saba and the Board did not report his relationship to the authorities. Here is where JT had the ability and legal responsibility to protect the children. If he were fired and the police were called back in 2015 none of of this would have occurred.

5

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:37 a.m.

jennvalenti: Yes, there will be more information coming out that people fired for inappropriate behavior with underaged students were hired back. Best, Don Bauder

5

Concerned2016 June 25, 2017 @ 10:07 a.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

5

ColleenB June 25, 2017 @ 10:45 a.m.

Thank you, Don, for writing this. Up until this last fall, my child had been with JT for several years. I was extremely supportive of them, and actively promoted their classes, camps and shows to any families I know. After the scandal of the firings in the fall, I stopped suggesting them. After your previous article about Matt's report, I actively told people not to have anything to do with them. Now, after this, I feel I should apologize to any family I have recommended JT to.

A month or so ago, we were speaking to my child's pediatrician, and discussing how everything that's happened has caused stress. When they asked which theatre, they were shocked to find out it was JT. They had just taken their kids to see a show there, and were heavily considering enrolling in some classes. Both my child and I were emphatic about saying that their children were best as far away as possible from JT, with everything going on. It hurt to say, but we could not, in good conscience, let anyone think that this is a safe environment for their children.

6

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 8:06 p.m.

ColleenB: I wonder how many people did the right thing, as you did. And did these actions hurt the finances of JT? Best, Don Bauder

4

ColleenB June 26, 2017 @ 4:22 p.m.

Don, I had actually spoken to quite a few parents that we know. To my shock, much of the response I had received was fairly universal: JT is a home to us, and the theatre we want to stay with. This was back during the time when the locker room incident was coming out. Several of those were people whose daughters were present. They, as well as other families, did not want to speak up or rock the boat, as they feared it would interfere with their children's ability to participate at JT. I've had very little contact with any of the families who have decided they want to stay there since. We have run into one or two older students who have expressed that after the events of last fall, they no longer wanted to be there. Unfortunately, that is a small minority.

0

Don Bauder July 1, 2017 @ 3:27 p.m.

ColleenB: It will be interesting to see what happens now that the von Metzke incidents have come to light. The protesting adults have a petition that more than 300 people signed before von Metzke's activity became news. Best, Don Bauder

0

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 10:45 a.m.

Concerned 2016; You raise an excellent point. It is clearly wrong for a teacher -- or anybody -- to have sex with two underage girls half his age. But isn't it a bit unusual that his social life revolved around underage people when he was in his mid-30s?

As others have told me, there should be a line which teachers are told they must not cross. But Junior Theatre, from what I have been told, didn't stress that line to teachers. Best, Don Bauder

5

Concerned2016 June 25, 2017 @ 10:58 a.m.

Dear Don

I would think any teacher, director, or even rational human being, would know NOT to have any unorthodox relationship with a student. Much less underage student. It's shifting the blame to the employer saying they didn't tell the teacher not to. This is completely Mr Meszkes fault. Sdjt waited a year to address it and fire him. Because of that 2 more girls were perhaps victimized. Had they fired him at the first indication or investigated it, there would not be 2 more victims. I am really mad and bewildered that the theatre would bring back the female after just firing metzke!!! Explain that SDJT!!! Why bring her back when she was fired?? I have many questions that I would liked answered.

5

Don Bauder June 25, 2017 @ 8:10 p.m.

Concerned2016: There are many questions that must be answered. Best, Don Bauder

4

Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!

Close