A child sex case which sent shock waves through the Walnut Creek theater community and cast doubt on the actions of some city officials came to some resolution Wednesday as a part-time employee at the eye of the case entered guilty pleas to a felony child pornography and misdemeanor child molestation charge.
As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, 27-year-old Jason Pedroza must spend 90 days in jail, meet the obligations of three years probation, stay away from three of his victims for 10 years and register as a sex offender for life. Possible additional charges stemming from a case in San Mateo are pending.
The former actor and theater coach entered the pleas Wednesday, listening as two of his victims spoke in court about their treatment by the Walnut Creek acting community after accusing Pedroza of using social media and the deep trust he had acquired through his connections at the Lesher Center to lure them into inappropriate relationships.
The Contra Costa Times reported that one of the girls spoke about how the close-knit acting community in Walnut Creek “turned on them” after the girls came forward with their accusations, shunning her and treating her “like I had some type of plague.”
Pedroza’s arrest and the subsequent investigation into his actions touched off a firestorm of criticism by members of the community who maintained that city officials did not report allegations of Pedroza’s abuse to law enforcement. The case eventually grew to include an internal investigation into possible “mandated reporting” violations by city staff, some of whom were apparently unaware that they needed to inform law enforcement of a possible sexual abuse case in their midst as required by state law.
Four city officials were placed on leave during the investigation. All returned to their jobs after it was determined they had acted appropriately. But the city’s human resources director has since retired, City Attorney Bryan Wenter resigned amid questions about the city’s handling of the case and subsequent investigation and dark conversations about who knew what, when – persist.
Pedroza, who has been out on bail since his arrest in February, returns to court for formal sentencing Oct. 11.