Seven female students told investigators that while their fourth-grade teacher would pat boys on the upper back, his hands would go farther south when it came to the girls.
New court documents filed in the case of Rudy “Hunter” Hoglen allege the Edwin Markham Elementary teacher touched female students on the legs, including squeezing their thighs, as he helped them with schoolwork.
Hoglen, 31, had been charged in Franklin County Superior Court with one count of first-degree child molestation.
But on Tuesday, Judge Carrie Runge found probable cause for prosecutors to add 11 more charges involving six other girls.
One girl described Hoglen touching female students in “awkward” places, and a few shared how he would pat and rub their thighs and lower backs in a circular motion before walking away from their desks, court documents said.
Being ‘touchy-feely’ with students
“Multiple school employees have stated that Mr. Hoglen had been observed being ‘touchy-feely’ with students, and had been advised multiple times by school administration and from fellow employees to maintain professional boundaries with students,” documents said.
The school is about 12 miles north of Pasco in Franklin County.
Runge’s decision came one month after her colleague, Judge Sam Swanberg, dismissed six charges because sheriff’s investigators did not provide details about those specific allegations in court documents.
Swanberg left it open for prosecutors to re-file if they got more information to support each charge.
That’s what Deputy Prosecutor Laura Mapes did Tuesday, handing over amended information that detailed each alleged victim’s claim.
Hoglen now is charged with one count of first-degree child molestation and five counts of attempted first-degree child molestation, all felonies. He also has six counts of fourth-degree assault, which is a gross misdemeanor.
All 12 counts include the aggravating factor that Hoglen was in a position of trust, which helped him commit the crime.
He also is accused in the assault charges of touching the girls for sexual motivation.
No evidence of sexual gratification
Scott Johnson, Hoglen’s lawyer, objected to seven of the new charges. He said there is nothing in the new documents that indicates there was sexual contact, such as “touching of an intimate area,” for sexual gratification.
Mapes replied that the “attempt” means Hoglen took a substantial step toward committing that crime.
If he had “touched the private areas of those girls,” he would be charged with straight child molestation on each of them, she said.
“The relationship between the victims and the defendant in this case is that he’s a teacher,” said Mapes. “There’s no legitimate purpose why he would be touching the upper thigh of a 10-year-old girl within his role as a teacher. ... His role is to provide classroom instruction.”
Mapes explained that with the one girl in the molestation charge, Hoglen started by touching other parts of the body that were less offensive, progressed to her inner thigh and eventually her genitalia. It was a pattern he was using with other girls, but “luckily it hadn’t gotten that far,” she said.
Johnson argued that Mapes was going overboard in her description of the alleged molestation, since the girl reportedly was wearing jeans when Hoglen put his hand between her legs.
Jury to decide if offensive contact
In the end, Runge said Hoglen’s position as a teacher versus the alleged victims being his students, their age and where they were touched would establish gratification, at least for probable cause purposes.
The judge also said that whether or not the girls reported feeling uncomfortable by their teacher’s alleged actions, it will be up to a jury to decide if it was offensive contact.
Hoglen’s trial is scheduled July 31.
He has been on paid administrative leave with the Pasco School District since March 21.
Allegations over 2 school years
Investigators spoke to eight female students. The alleged inappropriate touching happened in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.
The school district has said that the allegations, if true, “represent a breach of our trust and a disappointing departure from our standards for all district employees.”
Johnson, Hoglen’s lawyer, has previously referred to them as false accusations and said his client is devastated by what the girls reported.
“The case against Hunter is a witch hunt and we look forward to clearing his name at trial,” Johnson said last month.
Hoglen is out of custody after posting bond on $25,000 bail.
On Tuesday, Runge denied a request to increase it to $100,000 with the 11 additional charges.
She noted how Hoglen has no criminal history, has lived in the Tri-Cities his entire life aside from his college years, has attended every court hearing and has no-contact orders in place with all of the students.