A former Indian Wells elementary school teacher accused of
molesting eight children and teens pleaded not guilty in an Indio courtroom on Monday.
Robert Keith Bryan, 59, who taught fourth grade at Gerald Ford
Elementary School, is charged with 12 felony counts of a lewd act with a child
under 14 and five misdemeanor counts of molesting a child under 18. He is due
back in court Nov. 28 for a felony settlement conference.
Bryan was arrested Aug. 1 at his Palm Desert home and released from jail the following day after posting a $220,000 bond.
According to a statement of probable cause -- prepared by Riverside
County Sheriff's Department Investigator Michael Gaunt and attached to a
request for a search warrant -- a 10-year-old girl told authorities that Bryan
touched her vagina, over her clothes, while she was in his classroom during the
2011-2012 school year.
Seven of his female students told authorities that Bryan "touched their
bodies in a manner that made them feel `uncomfortable' or `weird,''' such as
patting them on the buttocks and stomachs or rubbing their lower backs, Gaunt wrote.
Bryan had a history of allegations of inappropriate conduct dating back
several years, according to Gaunt. The educator was suspected of committing a
lewd act in 1992 but wasn't charged because of a lack of evidence, the
In 1994, Bryan was suspended from the school district without pay for
inappropriately rubbing a female student's back, according to the investigator.
In a memorandum, a principal told Bryan he had to stop touching students and
not be alone with one or a few, or he might face disciplinary action, according
to Gaunt's declaration.
When authorities served a search warrant at Bryan's classroom in July,
they found a photo of a topless girl that had been downloaded four times on his computer and several other "suggestive'' images of girls. The computer had
"several thousand'' images of children, with a ratio of 15 females to one
male, according to Gaunt.
"The images of juveniles stored in Bryan's computer shows a clear bias
of female to male students,'' the investigator wrote.
Students in Bryan's class during the past school year claimed he took
"numerous'' photos and videos of them during school hours, according to
Bryan's attorney, Paul Wallin, said a few days after Bryan's arrest that
his client "vehemently denies'' the allegations.
"He has been an outstanding educator for over 30 years,'' the Tustin-
based defense attorney said. "Mr. Bryan has never been convicted of any
criminal offense in his entire life, and has been a local homeowner for 26
years. He has taught thousands of students over these almost three decades.
"As are all persons in this country, Mr. Bryan is presumed innocent of
all charges at this time. We urge the community to reserve judgment and to wait until the evidence is presented in a court of law,'' Wallin said.
Bryan started working for the Desert Sands Unified School District in
1986, Wallin said. Bryan retired from the district on Aug. 7 for "personal''
reasons, according to the Aug. 14 school board agenda.