A Palo Alto man recently accused of multiple lewd and lascivious acts toward female students he tutored was the subject of a complaint to Palo Alto police three years ago from another former pupil, according to a police investigative report filed with Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Mark Allan Hodes, 74, a well-known mathematics and sciences tutor, was arrested on Aug. 25 on nine felony counts — three counts for each of three female victims. He has operated Peninsula Tutoring Service from his Manuela Avenue home since 1970, teaching students at the primary, secondary grades and university levels, according to his LinkedIn profile.
A police department press release issued Aug. 27 only referenced complaints made by two former tutees on June 9, but Palo Alto police also investigated Hodes in 2017 for alleged sexual misconduct after a then-University of California student reported to a counselor that she had been inappropriately touched by Hodes when she was a 16-year-old Palo Alto student in 2012.
The girl was interviewed by both her college's police department and Palo Alto police, according to court documents, but the case was closed after the police were unable to find any other victims. (Several phone calls to parents of students whom the girl knew had also been clients of Hodes either were not returned or the students didn't report similar experiences.)
"Due to the type of allegations being made and when the allegations were made, the statute of limitations on this matter has expired. My investigation has not uncovered any other ongoing allegations against Hodes. This case is closed until new or other evidence can be identified," Det. Joel Hornung wrote in his report, dated Feb. 22, 2018. The 2017 case is not currently among the prosecutions, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office stated in an email.
The incidents for which Hodes is now charged allegedly occurred between 2011 and 2014, according to the criminal complaint filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court. Two of the three women in the case had discussed their similar encounters with Hodes and decided to file a report with the police department on June 9.
According to the police report, one of the women alleged that he had placed his hand under her skirt and kept it there throughout the tutoring session, arranged his chair in such a way as to have her knee touching his groin while he was having an erection, and positioned his arm across her breasts throughout the tutoring session.
The victim said Hodes did not make any statements that were sexual in nature and would continue the lesson without interruption during the activity, according to the investigative report.
The woman said these incidents occurred every week to two weeks for four years. She didn't tell anyone at the time, according to the report filed with the court.
Her friend was tutored by Hodes from October 2012 to January 2013 when she was also 14 years old. She reported that he began inappropriately touching her in a similar manner starting in November 2012.
She felt "uncomfortable," "shameful," and "embarrassed," she told police. She stopped seeing Hodes due to the alleged incidents, but she didn't report them for years because she was not sure how to articulate what happened, she said.
Although Hodes is now charged with nine felony counts in the current case, the victims alleged many more incidents had occurred. Sean Webby, spokesman for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, said in an email that the number of charges is based on many factors, including whether the incidents are provable and if they fall within the statute of limitations.
Police interviewed eight women, seven of whom said Hodes touched them, but three of whom said they were unsure of his intentions. One told detectives she thought he was "just weird," while another thought he might have Asperger's. Yet another said she "thought Hodes 'seemed very socially awkward,' so she remembered thinking, 'Does he realize he is doing this?'" the police report states.
The women were between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time of the alleged incidents, with the earliest case dating to 2002, according to the police reports.
One of the eight women said she was not touched inappropriately.
Police said in their Aug. 27 press release that Hodes provided private tutoring services to students who attended Castilleja School, Palo Alto High School, Gunn High School and Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School.
Lorraine Brown, a spokeswoman for Castilleja School, confirmed that Hodes tutored students for many years, including some Castilleja alumnae, mostly in math. She stressed that he was never a Castilleja employee, however.
"This is distressing news, and we are proud of the young women who had the courage to report this to the police," she said in an emailed statement. "We ... will cooperate fully with this investigation. We have notified our community and encouraged them to contact the Palo Alto Police Department directly if they have any information about this case.
"At Castilleja, we do everything we can to reinforce clear professional boundaries between adults and our students. Our handbook establishes appropriate verbal, physical, emotional, and social boundaries that are designed to avoid even the slightest perception of inappropriate conduct."
Reached at his home on Tuesday evening and asked to comment on his case, Hodes said, "I'm sorry. I have representation and I can't comment."
Trisha Luciano, an attorney for Hodes, did not return a request for comment. In the police investigative narrative, she told police that Hodes retired in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is no longer seeing students.
Hodes has been released from custody after posting $450,000 bail, according to the District Attorney's office. His scheduled court arraignment is Dec. 23.
Since last week's police announcement, additional women have contacted the police about Hodes, acting Capt. James Reifschneider said in an email on Sept. 1. Detectives are working to follow up with them.
"At this time, we are aware of alleged criminal conduct dating back to the late 1990s. Others have come forward to report that they experienced no criminal conduct whatsoever when interacting with Mr. Hodes. The investigation is ongoing. When the investigation is complete, it will be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for their review," Reifschneider said.
"Like most sexual assault investigations, this case is complex. The most important thing at this point is for any community members who have additional information about Mr. Hodes and what may have gone on in his tutoring sessions to come forward to law enforcement."
Steve Wagstaffe, district attorney for neighboring San Mateo County, said that the case reported to police in 2017 would have been a potential case of sexual battery rather than lewd and lascivious conduct because the latter charges only apply when children are 15 years old or younger. But a sexual battery charge requires that force was used, and in the 2017 case, the alleged acts would likely not rise to that level, he said.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office noted that the statute of limitations on misdemeanor sexual battery was just one year at the time and had passed by the time the alleged abuse was reported.
"The 2017 case was determined to be outside the statute of limitations, which prohibits prosecution," Webby stated. "There was insufficient evidence to prove a felony or misdemeanor sexual battery beyond a reasonable doubt."
Reifschneider said the police department encourages anyone with information regarding Hodes to contact the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413, no matter how long ago an incident may have occurred.
"There are certain provisions contained within the Evidence Code that permit prosecutors to call victims whose crimes could not be charged to provide testimony in the extant case. For that reason, it is important for us to hear from anyone who thinks they may have been victimized, even if that behavior occurred long in the past," Reifschneider said.