WATSONVILLE – Watsonville City Councilmember and District 4 Santa Cruz County Supervisor candidate Jimmy Dutra has once again denied recent allegations of sexual abuse and suggested that a key witness in the court filing may have a personal vendetta against him.
“Because these allegations are severe and untrue, I feel I must share with you a crucial piece of missing information that is not being talked about in the press today,” Dutra said during a Thursday afternoon press conference in Watsonville, surrounded by a crowd of more than 20 supporters. “The plaintiff’s number one witness in this case is my dad’s disgruntled girlfriend who I just got out of a contentious six year litigation with over my father’s estate.”
Dutra did not take questions from the press after speaking, but later confirmed to the Sentinel that the referenced witness is Susie McBride.
In the civil lawsuit filed on Oct. 5, the plaintiff Stephen Siefke, claims Dutra, then 30, sexually abused him as a 12 year old in 2005 while he was on vacation in Los Angeles and staying at Dutra’s residence with Dutra’s father and his father’s “life partner,” McBride.
According to the filing, Siefke recounted the assault to McBride in the days after it occurred, asking that she promise to keep it a secret. “She agreed. He then described what she clearly understood and interpreted to be the sexual molestation he suffered at the hands of Defendant Jimmy Dutra,” the filing reads.
Siefke’s lawyers said, in a press release provided to the Sentinel hours after Dutra’s press conference that “The unvarnished truth is that Jimmy’s father’s life partner of more than 20 years is not the ‘central witness’ against Jimmy …”
According to the release, by the time Siefke was in high school he had also told his mother, father, grandparents, close friends and therapist about the alleged molestation.
“When I returned to Santa Cruz County and was faced with Jimmy’s campaign for supervisor on a daily basis, and then discovered that he was a middle school teacher, I had no choice but to come forward by filing a public lawsuit,” Siefke is quoted in the release.
The original filing describes one night while Siefke was sleeping in the living room and Dutra’s parents were staying in one of the bedrooms, Dutra came home late with a friend and began to engage in unwanted sexual advances and genital touching that Siefke ultimately rejected.
Around the time of the incident, Siefke’s parents made an effort to report Dutra to law enforcement, but Siefke refused to talk to the police because of shame and embarrassment, according to the report.
Siefke is seeking punitive and exemplary damages for the mental and physical trauma he says he continues to suffer. But Siefke, who moved back to the county within the past two years after living elsewhere for some time, has consistently acknowledged that part of his motivation for stepping forward came after he saw evidence of Dutra’s political aspirations.
During the press conference, Dutra was adamant about what he believes the case is really about and admonished it for its timing.
“Let’s be clear on what this case is about: This case is about money and it’s about revenge,” Dutra said. “The fact that this election has recently become a false story rather than talking about the issues has been quite disrespectful to our community.”
The Nov. 8 General Election is less than a month away and vote by mail ballots went out to voters on Monday.
Dutra is in the midst of a grueling campaign against opponent Felipe Hernandez for the District 4 seat that Greg Caput will soon vacate. He won a plurality of votes in the June Primary Election, but because he failed to receive more than 50% of total votes, the contest advanced to the November runoff.
“Let’s not rush to judgement, let’s create space for the courts to do what they are supposed to do,” Dutra said. “I know I’m innocent. I look forward to being vindicated through the court’s legal processes and continuing this campaign and winning it in November.”
Still, there has already been some fallout for Dutra.
Dutra was hired earlier this year as a substitute and after school teacher with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, according to Alicia Jimenez, a public information officer with the district. However, in a statement emailed to the Sentinel, she said Dutra is no longer employed by the district.
“I am extremely pleased that the Pajaro Valley School District has at least initially recognized the risk to children from having Jimmy in its classrooms and has removed him from having access to middle schoolers like I was when Jimmy molested me,” Siefke said in his statement.
Jimenez said she could not confirm or deny if Dutra had been fired, only that he was no longer working for the district.
Dutra also recently stepped down as board president of the Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance center in Watsonville, according to a statement provided to the Sentinel. Nancy Bilicich is now the board chair and Watsonville Chief of Police Jorge Zamora is now vice chair.
The case’s first hearing is scheduled for Feb.3, with Judge Timothy Volkmann.