Tuesday, September 9, 2008

West High School Teacher Jose Bernardo Fanjul Arrested For Unlawful Sexual Activity With Female Student In Salt Lake City

Update September 11th: Jose Fanjul appears in court, formally charged with sexual abuse and sodomy, no plea accepted at this time. Updated post HERE.

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.


Anonymous said...

I am absolutely astonished by the accusations that are being held against Mr. Fanjul! I had him my freshman year of high school, and he coudn't be any further from the accusations that are being brought against him. He is a very respectful and cultured man, especially going through the life that he experienced as a young child. Mr. Fanjul has come too far to jeopardize everything he has worked for, and I really want to find out who the person that accused him of these heinous crimes, and scare the truth out of her!

Gords said...

Man! That's two bad stories coming out of my Alma Mater in the last year. I sure hope this one pans out to be that he is being falsely accused. They may want to put up security cameras in every nook and cranny there at West.

Anonymous said...

My West High student said that when he heard the news he wasn't surprised at all. He saw the three latino girls that were always hanging out in his class and he knew they were spending time with JB Fanjul off campus too.

He thought the whole relationship was a little odd even early last year.

But I'm confident our legal system will do its job.

ifrah said...

I am sorry to say but I will not believe these accusations until I see the proof actually sorry I mean I REFUSE I absolutely REFUSE to believe it. and until i hear the verdict I will not believe this about not only my hero but also my role model. And for the kid who always see fanjul with 3 Latina girls guess what he always hung out with his students in campus and out of campus but he only hung out in groups and always obeyed the rules the school had. so don't try to say you aren't surprise because you no absolutely nothing about him.

Anonymous said...

Despite the situation at hand, no one will ever convince me that Mr. Fanjul isn't a good man. Even if these accusations are true, the fiber of his character as a whole consists of a great number of good qualities. He is a caring and considerate person from whom I learned a lot more than history. Also, one should pay attention to to wording of his charges- I have a hard time believing this is as dark a situation on his part as many would think. He was always a gentleman to the girls I observed him around (keep in mind that none of them acted provocatively); who knows what the "victim" is guilty of?

PatoMaster said...

In response to anonymous whose "West High Student" wasn't surprised because he saw three Latino girls that were always hanging around with Mr. Fanjul.

-The correct term in referring to women of Latin descent is Latina.

-Your comment makes it sound as though you assume the "victim" is also a Latina. Mr. Fanjul was very friendly and well liked; students (both male and female), of all races/ethnicities could be seen "hanging around" with him. Do you believe that only Latinas have the propensity to carry on an inappropriate relationship? The "victim" involved in last years case with Marco Herrera was Caucasian. After hearing the supposed details and reading news accounts of the case involving Mr. Fanjul, I and many others have good reason to believe that the "victim" is the same young woman.

-In response to the editor's note that addresses "whining activists": Your response makes no sense. The point that people are trying to make in Mr. Fanjul's case is that legality is separate from his racial identity, and therefore should be left out of articles with regard to this case. That's exactly the type of thing activists whine about; they separate legality from racial identity. Since the ideas behind both the former and latter arguments are the same, it doesn't make sense for you to say that race does, in fact, matter at their fault. Have you ever actually read Pandora's Box? If so you would never make that foolish analogy.

Anonymous said...

Compare Mr Fanjul's treatment with that of Christy Anne Brown, a teacher who admitted to "over 40" instances of sexual intimacy with a sixteen year old male student.

She was sentenced to NINETY DAYS PROBATION only!!

This has to do IMO and research with the blatand sexism of the courts.

False accusers ought to suffer the same penalty they would likely have brought upon their accused victims.

Sexist judges need to be thrown out and their names and records published, and their own reputations be held in ignominy.

Anonymous said...

When i heard the news about mr. fanjul i was shocked and heart broken. this is the second time somone breaks me. i feel like i need to talk to someone about how im feeling and how ican edure it. for the second time i have to go through this and i dont think i can you know. its like trying to start my trust again how i feel about people and myself and try to trust someone as much. it hurts when you give your all and its like blah.
if you ask anyone at west he befreinds anyone he is a people person duh! but the accuser i hope she is lying her guts out. so its hope you know he is like a father to me and i love the way he has a sense of humor and his superman stuff is so sweet man its like insane that he is very cool you know he invented cool its totaly bougus doode fangul your my freind nomatter what.i beleive in your incoennts. but i dont know what others think they dont know what a great person you are. the other thing a like is your classroom i love the people (posters) you had up on your wall and the storys that came with them and how they got to the top. i know people make mistakes but fanjul this one is huge and i wish i can speak to you and get the truth but if you did the crime accept it or fight it when its bogus. whatevere they decide i will stay by your side nomatter what you are my hero that someone so low can get so high and i will see you as my example i look up to you jose bernardo Fanjul hey jb god will help you out i know it i want to go see you be free and see you happy with your family right by your side so hurry up i want to see that.you always lighten up my day.

Anonymous said...

I am tired of hearing all of these comments of who is at fault in this situation. I happened to know both Mr Fanjul and the victim(in respect to her identity). They were really good friends of mine. I never saw this coming. For everyone who feels shocked or even saddened by this experience you now have someone that you can relate. Don't worry about it. No ones perfect. It's never too late to change