Fairfax Middle School official charged with molestation

Fairfax Middle School official charged with molestation »Play Video
Donald Ricketts, the vice principal at Bakersfield's Fairfax Middle School, appears Wednesday, July 13, 2011, in a Lamont courthouse to face molestation charges.
LAMONT, Calif. — Accompanied by his wife Joy, other family members and defense attorney H.A. Sala, Fairfax Middle School vice principal Donald Ricketts was taken into custody Wednesday and charged with six felony counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and one misdemeanor count of annoying a child under 18.

Ricketts pleaded not guilty to the charges in Kern County Superior Court in Lamont.

The alleged molestations happened as far back as 2005 and as recently as Jan. 1 of this year. Defense attorney Sala questioned the validity of the accusations.

"They're unreliable, a lot of the information is not specific," said Sala.

One of the alleged incidents happened in 2009, and it was investigated by the Kern County Sheriff's Office back then. But that case was dismissed by the district attorney's office for "lack of merit" and Ricketts was never charged, though he was put on paid administrative leave from his job with the Fairfax School District during the investigation.

In the present case against Ricketts, he is accused of molesting three minors, two of them at Fairfax Assembly of God Church and another at an unspecified school site. Sala claims the case against his client is weak and that at least one victim refused to cooperate with the investigation.

"When she was confronted with cooperating with law enforcement so far as making a pretext call, she absolutely refused," said Sala.

The defense attorney claims it shows a lack of credibility.

The current investigation came to light in April when a girl under 14 confided in her pastor at Fairfax Assembly of God Church, alleging that Ricketts had molested her. Pastor Pete Baker said he reported the incident, as well as another alleged incident by a different girl, to law enforcement.

"If these allegations were founded, why didn't they come to light at the time they happened?" asked Sala.

Parents in the Fairfax School District have been visibly upset by the accusations against Ricketts, and some want him fired. District Superintendent Michael Coleman has said the district will review the matter and then decide what action to take. Coleman would not say if the district will consider firing Ricketts.

Bail for Ricketts was set at $360,000. His attorney said bail would be posted and the Ricketts would be going home. The next court appearance is scheduled for July 26.