WAIPAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The attorneys for a Waipahu High track coach accused of molesting one of his athletes are maintaining his innocence. They claim an initial investigation by the school found no wrongdoing.
The accuser, who's now 17 years old, told police the sex assaults took place from July 2009 to October 2010.
A sign at Waipahu High boasts of the championship title garnered by its girls soccer players. But the mood is much different on the track and field team after one of its runners, a 17-year-old, accused Coach Erik Tamura of groping her on multiple occasions.
"The Department of Education and Waipahu High School take all allegations of sexual assault very seriously," Keith Hayashi, school principal, said.
But it appears the school did not feel any need to strip the accused of his duties and remove him from campus during its internal investigation.
The 37-year-old, who's also identified as a language arts teacher, was charged with three counts of third-degree sex assault last Saturday and has already made a court appearance. Thursday was his first day on department-directed leave.
"All of those issues deal in the realm of personnel and personnel issues are confidential, so I'm not able to address those questions," Hayashi replied when asked by this reporter about the timeline.
The coach's attorneys maintain he is 100% innocent of the charges.
"As you are already aware, Waipahu High School did a full investigation into these allegations and concluded there was no merit to the student's claims," Ken Shimozono, defense attorney, said.
DOE officials are now working with the school principal on the case.
"I'm here to review with Mr. Hayashi what went on and review the procedures and see if what we did is correct and if we can improve on anything," Norman Pang, DOE complex area superintendent, said.
"Mr. Tamura has been a dedicated, well-respected teacher and coach for hundreds of students throughout the years," Shimozono said. "We ask the public to withhold judgment in this case and we are confident that Mr. Tamura will be fully exonerated at trial."
"The bottom line of all this review and investigation is the safety of the kids," Pang said.
Tamura is free after posting $30,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 5th.