An Orange County Superior Court judge issued financial sanctions against the Anaheim Union High School district Friday for failing to turn over files related to a lawsuit by former Kennedy High School girls water polo players who allege they were sexually abused by an assistant coach after school employees ignored allegations of sexual misconduct against the coach.
In addition to the financial penalties, Judge Robert Moss also gave the Anaheim UHSD 20 days to turn over files related to former Kennedy assistant water polo coach Joshua Owens, other AUHSD employees and potential victims of Owens and sexual assault at Kennedy.
Owens pleaded guilty last August to one count each of oral copulation with a victim younger than 16, and sexual penetration of a victim younger than 16 and six misdemeanor counts of child annoyance. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
A confidential Buena Park Police Department police report and emails, letters and reports by Kennedy coaches, teachers and administrators obtained by the Southern California News Group show that even when confronted with accounts of Owens sexual misconduct with female athletes, some as young as 14, Kennedy principal Russell Earnest and at least four other Kennedy employees repeatedly failed to report Owens to law enforcement or Child Protective Services, as required by California law.
The failure of Kennedy administrators, coaches and teachers to fulfill their legal responsibilities as mandated reporters enabled Owens to continue sexually abusing two teenage athletes, begin sexually abusing a Kennedy freshman athlete in 2016 and sexually harass at least two other Kennedy students, asking them to have sex with him, according to police reports.
Four former Kennedy water polo players have filed two separate civil lawsuits against Anaheim UHSD and USA Water Polo in Orange County Superior Court alleging sexual battery, negligence, emotional distress and false imprisonment related to incidents with their coaches.
The suits accuse Owens and Bahram Hojreh, a former Kennedy head coach, of sexual battery and Anaheim UHSD and USA Water Polo, the sports national governing body, with negligent supervision.
Hojreh was arrested last April and charged with nearly two-dozen felony and misdemeanor charges, including lewd acts upon a child, sexual penetration of a minor with a foreign object, child annoyance and sexual battery.
Prosecutors allege that between September 2014 to January 2018; Hojreh touched players breasts and genitals, digitally penetrated victims, and coerced girls to touch his genitals while working as a water polo coach at the International Water Polo Club in Los Alamitos. The acts took place during one-on-one coaching sessions between Hojreh and the players, four of whom were 15 years old or younger at the time.
Hojreh, who has denied any wrongdoing, was hired as the girls varsity head coach at Kennedy in August 2017. He was placed on administrative leave by the Anaheim Union High School District on Jan. 3, 2018 after district officials became aware of a police investigation of Hojreh. He was eventually fired by the district.
Moss imposed a $1,350 sanction against AUHSD citing the districts “failure to provide proper responses lacked substantial justification” for not providing documents to attorneys for the former Kennedy players. He also hit AUHSD with a $1,050 fine for the districts “failure to provide proper verified responses.”
AUHSD did not respond to a request for comment.
Then Kennedy head coach Eric Pierce acknowledged that he “didnt take it seriously” when the father of a girl on the team complained in November 2014 that Owens was dating his daughter, according to a police report.
In December 2015, Earnest, Kennedy athletic directors Dave Jankowski and Dean Wang, and Ian Sabala, a teacher at the school, were informed of allegations of Owens “trying to get at one of the freshman players” and had previously dated players on the team, according emails, letters and reports.
Owens was initially cleared in 2015 by Jankowski. The athletic directors investigation was completed in less than 24 hours after Sabala received emails from a former student raising allegations of sexual abuse against Owens and accusing school employees of ignoring similar allegations a year earlier. Earnest was sent a one-page letter detailing the investigation by Jankowski. The alleged victim was not interviewed by school officials during the investigation and the allegations were not forwarded to law enforcement or CPS, according to police records.
Earnest was forced out at Kennedy following a police investigation in 2016 and 2017 after Child Protective Services received a new set of allegations against Owens from a volunteer Kennedy assistant coach.