Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Kay Sorg Arraignment and Plea Rescheduled

By Kara Platoni
Tue, Jun 5, 2007 at 4:55 PM

According to the Alameda County District Attorney's office, the arraignment and plea hearing for Kay Sorg has been pushed back until later this month. The former Albany Middle School science teacher has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a former student who was a minor at the time. The relationship allegedly occurred in the early 1990s when the student was between the ages of 14 and 17 and no longer attending Albany Middle School. Sorg was arrested in May, 2007 by the Albany Police Department, and was first arraigned on May 11 in Alameda County Superior Court on five felony counts of sexual assault, including one count of performing a lewd act on a child, two counts of oral copulation with a minor, and two counts of penetration by a foreign object with a minor. Sorg did not enter a plea at that time. A second arraignment, which was scheduled for June 4, has now been delayed until June 21. This delay was requested by Sorg's defense attorney. It's not an unusual move for defense attorneys -- it gives them more time to review the evidence against their clients.

We know that many of our readers are eager for more information about the Kay Sorg case, and the Express/92510 blog will do our best to keep you updated with accurate information. In the meantime, since there is so much misinformation floating out there on the Internet, this seems like a good time to clear some of it up.

1. We've been getting a good deal of mail from readers asking if Sorg has been sentenced yet, or citing posts on other blogs that claim she's already received a prison sentence. This is false. As of June 5, 2007, Sorg has not been sentenced.

For those unfamiliar with the criminal court system, it might be helpful to know more about arraignments, the stage the prosecution is at right now. An arraignment is not a trial. It is a hearing during which an accused person has the charges against them formally read to them. They may then enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. If they plead "guilty," usually evidentiary hearings follow before a judge imposes a sentence. If they plead "not guilty," usually a trial will follow. If they are found guilty by a jury, at the conclusion of the trial the judge will issue a sentence. In either case, sentencing is not likely to happen immediately after arraignment.

More useful information on criminal trial proceedings can be found at Findlaw's Stages of a Criminal Case page.

2. There has been speculation on our blog that the former student came forward with allegations of abuse in the hope of collecting a monetary claim against Sorg. However, the case filed against Kay Sorg in Alameda County District Court is a criminal case, not a civil suit. There are no monetary awards in criminal cases. This case is filed and prosecuted by the Alameda County District Attorney's office on behalf of the public, not by a private lawyer hired by the former student. It's also worth noting that the accuser initially filed her complaint with the Albany school district, and that it was district officials who ultimately alerted the police.

3. Many readers have wondered why the accuser has remained anonymous, particularly since she is no longer a minor. As staff writer Lauren Gard previously explained, "California Penal Code 293 allows victims of sexual assault - regardless of age - the option of remaining publicly anonymous." You can read the full text of the relevant code at California's Legislative Information Web page. (Scroll down to section "293.")

4. Many readers have asked about a statute of limitations, since the alleged incidents occured in the 1990s. California's penal code cites varying limits for different kinds of sexual offenses, but does contain some special exemptions for cases of sexual assault against children. In some kinds of cases, extensions are made to allow victims of childhood abuse to file after they reach adulthood. (Children may not have the resources or ability to file complaints while they are young.) You can find the complete code here.

In this case, says prosecutor Carrie Panetta from the District Attorney's office, it was possible to file charges because "In California, certain offenses involving substantial sexual conduct can be initiated within one year of the date of report to the police as long as there is independent evidence that corroborates the evidence."

5. Many readers have brought up the issue of whether or not the accuser consented to participate in the alleged sexual relationship. However, under California law it is illegal for an adult to have a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 18 who is not their spouse, regardless of the minor's intentions. (There are some variations in penalties depending on the age differences between the two people.)

Have other questions? Let us know. We'll answer what we can.

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