Joel Kaufman, a former Palo Alto High School coach accused of child molestation, surrendered himself to Contra Costa sheriffs today, March 22.
Kaufman, 52, of Orinda, who has been a baseball coach in the Bay Area was employed at Palo Alto High School in 2006.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office filed six felony and misdemeanor charges Wednesday against Kaufman, the sheriff's office said. The charges include two counts of performing lewd acts on a child under 14, and one count each of performing lewd acts on a teenager between 14 and 15 and penetration of a drugged or intoxicated person, Deputy District Attorney Chad Mahalich said.
His bail was set at $325,000, Mahalich said.
Kaufman also faces misdemeanor charges of child molestation and unlawfully filming or videotaping someone, Mahalich said.
He was arrested on molestation charges last August but was later released, sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said.
Mahalich said that if found guilty of all charges, Kaufman could face more than 10 years in prison.
The news of Kaufman's misdeeds caught current Palo Alto High coaches and administrators off guard, but some weren't necessarily shocked by the charges.
"When I heard about it, I wasn't surprised," said current Paly baseball coach Erick Raich. "I just hope he doesn't give a bad name to all the good people out there doing club sports . . . it's really sad, but what can we do about it now? All we can do as coaches is keep our integrity, do the things under our control, and let the justice system take care of its job."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Oakland said Kaufman was a part-time baseball coach at Oakland's Bishop O'Dowd High School from 1999 to 2005. During his tenure there, no incidents of abuse were reported, spokesman Mike Brown said.
For the 2006 baseball season, Kaufman worked at Palo Alto High School as a baseball coach, Palo Alto Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers said. No problems were reported during that time, he said.
Palo Alto Athletic Director Earl Hansen hired Kaufman to a one-year contract prior to the start of the 2006 season.
"I called O'Dowd and talked to their AD," Hansen said. "His credentials checked out. He had coached there for 11 years."
Hansen was looking for that kind of stability for his program, but found it odd that Kaufman was let go by O'Dowd after a highly successful season.
"There was no indication of wrong-doing, not at all," Hansen said. "I had no inkling about that."
Nor did Paly assistant coaches Rob McGregor or David Jefferson during the '06 season.
"I just thought he wasn't a very good coach," Hansen said. "The assistants were doing all the work. But, there was no impropriety, nothing like that."
Hansen said Kaufman wasn't fired from Paly, just not re-hired.
"If he had been here five years, it would have been an issue (based on Kaufman's current situation), but he was just here one year. . . . I really didn't know the guy very well."
The one strange thing that Hansen found about Kaufman was that he apparently couldn't play baseball, even though Kaufman led the Vikings to the postseason in his one and only year.
Dick Held, who was Paly's pitching coach during Kaufman's brief stay, said he never saw Kaufman do anything that caused him any kind of discomfort.
"I did have a confrontation with Joel about how he was unnecessarily disrespectful to team members and he told me if I didn`t like it I could leave. I did. I sent the team an e-mail saying Joel was the coach and not a bad guy, we just didn`t agree on how to best work with young people. I encouraged them to stick together and help him become a better communicator and coach.
"The team summoned him to a meeting the next day and told him he was the problem. He called and asked me to come back. I said I would think about it but was inclined to say 'no.' My wife and daughter told me the boys had gone to bat for me and I had to let them see they could have an impact when they constructively stood up to adults. I went back. Joel was very apolgetic and he changed his approach to the kids. I never saw Joel do anything inappropriate beyond his style of coaching."
Meanwhile, Raich said the entire Kaufman incident now sheds a bad light on club sports.
"It will change the policies with club programs," he said. "When it comes to traveling, you can never leave a coach alone with an athlete."
Kaufman is listed as the owner of the San Leandro batting cages Triple Play USA on Adams Avenue and as the manager of the California Smoke, a Bay Area-based baseball club for high school students.