Update September 19th: Jose Fanjul in court for bail reduction hearing, bail continued at $200,000. Speculation that the "victim" is a Lolita, updated post HERE.
Update October 28th: Judge Ann Boyden decides to proceed with trial, arraignment set for November 10th. Updated post HERE.
Update November 11: KSL reports that Fanjul has pleaded not guilty. Another hearing is scheduled for December 22nd, and a trial is tentatively scheduled for February.
Update January 12th, 2009: The Deseret News reports that Fanjul's trial will not take place on February 10th, but will be delayed indefinitely, despite defense objections.
Update May 4th, 2009: Trial cancelled, hearing on motion to dismiss charges scheduled for May 8th. Updated post HERE.
Update June 5th, 2009: Jose Fanjul found NOT GUILTY on all charges. Updated post HERE.
In December 2006, West High School teacher Jose Bernardo Fanjul (pictured above left) was featured in a KSL Channel 5 story about scams targeting the Hispanic community in Salt Lake City.
In October 2007, Jose Bernardo Fanjul received Utah's No Child Left Behind 2007 American Star of Teaching award from the U.S. Department of Education, as reported by KSL. Only one teacher is selected per state out of numerous nominees.
On September 8th, 2008, Jose Bernardo Fanjul was featured in a story about how various teachers were tackling the lessons of 9-11, reported by both the Salt Lake Tribune and KSL Channel 5. Little did either media outlet dream that they'd be reporting on him again, just 24 hours later, on a story much more foreboding. An investigation against Fanjul was ticking away like a time bomb.
And on September 9th, the time bomb detonated, as police arrested the 35-year-old Fanjul on the campus of West High School and booked him into jail on five felony counts of forcible sexual abuse and five felony counts of forcible sodomy against a 17-year-old female student. Stories reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News, KSL Channel 5, KTVX Channel 4, and KUTV Channel 2.
The student said she engaged in various sexual activities with Fanjul between March and July of 2008, both at his home and at the school, according to an affidavit filed with the Salt Lake County Jail. The Salt Lake City Police Department's special victims unit has been working with her and her father, which led to Fanjul's arrest. The school immediately placed Fanjul on paid administrative leave, and has issued a statement HERE.
Fanjul is a classical immigrant success story. A Venezuela native, he went from sleeping on the streets in Venezuela at age 16 to a graduate of Utah State University 10 years later, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in the process. More recently, Fanjul was a social studies and world language teacher at West. He also once coached the West High girl's volleyball team. On his website, written in both English and Spanish, that he has a son currently serving an LDS mission in Brazil. He was just starting his fourth year teaching at West. He also still has an official West High faculty web page HERE, and there is a more detailed bio on the PowerInYou website.
Students were surprised to find out about the arrest. Those interviewed praised Fanjul for being friendly, considerate, and respectful; they said they never would have figured him to be guilty of such charges. Several students actually posted comments to the KSL story supportive of Fanjul:
np1618 @ 6:23pm - Tue Sep 9th, 2008
As a student of Mr. Fanjul's, I simply can't believe this is true. His door is ALWAYS open when students are in the class room, there is NEVER only one student in there....because he is everybody's favorite teacher! Everyone goes to Fanjul for help. I have been his student for 3 years and have never seen, even remotely, inappropriate behavior or language. And anyone who would bring race into this is absolutely pathetic.
alice.fromWONDERLAND @ 7:02pm - Tue Sep 9th, 2008
Mr. Fanjul is VERY careful about how he behaves in front of students! Seeing his face on the news makes me want to find whoever "it was" and get the truth out of her through... disciplinary action!
Alli A @ 7:54pm - Tue Sep 9th, 2008
There's no way in hell he would have sex with a student. Just like the other student said earlier, his door is always open and never shut, he tells that to you on the first day of school so you know you can hang out in his room during other free classes that you have. If you ask any student at West High you are more than likely to hear that he is their favorite teacher, even if they don't have him. Fanjul would never harm a student.
VAN NGUYEN @ 8:22pm - Tue Sep 9th, 2008
Mr Fanjul is a well respected man.
It is insane how this world is... to judge a person who has just been accused. There has been no evidence presented and no hearing has been done. So until that has happened all of you pathetic people have no right to say anything. Also his race and culture does not have to do with anything! [Ed. Note: Bullshit! Race matters in this country now, thanks to black, latino, and Jewish activists. They opened the Pandora's box with their constant whining.]
I truly respect Mr Fanjul, he is my favorite teacher, he has inspired me so much just to learn, I can say this for many others too. Mr Fanjuls class is always open! If the door was shut then it is either class time or he is not there. Countless of students goes to his classroom even if they do not have his class. When you have a problem he would be there to help you.
So please do not judge, even if there is the slightest possibilities that he did what he did, it does not changes who he is. I may not know the whole story, but I am behind Mr Fanjul 100%. Mr Fanjul will always be a teacher who I will look up to.
What penalty might Fanjul expect if convicted? A recent case gives us a clue. On September 3rd, former West High School guidance counselor Marco Herrera was sentenced to serve three consecutive one-to-15-year terms at the Utah State Prison and to pay as yet undetermined restitution after he pleaded guilty to three felony counts of forcible sex abuse of a 14-year-old female student; in exchange, seven other felony counts, including rape, were dropped. Herrera was assigned to be her guidance counselor.
Analysis: The possibility that the charges may be bogus always exists. This girl could have been pissed off at Fanjul for some reason, and cooked up these charges to get back at him. If this turns out to be the case, then she needs to be hammered - and hammered hard. Anyone who lodges false charges against someone just to get revenge needs to be punished severely to better deter similar behavior in the future.
But 10 counts? Not! When the cops charge you with 10 counts, there's obviously fire behind the smoke. Those idealistic students with stars in their eyes need to accept the possibility that Their Great Hero may have had a serious flaw.