Make no mistake, Rancho Santa Margarita is a safe city insulated from much of the crime that plagues other communities. However, RSM isn’t bullet-proof, and in 2012 it seemed there was a lot of perverse news going on that involved children.
In March, Scott Andrew Christensen went on trial for molesting two boys and sexually assaulting another while he was a child care worker for the Learning Connection, a program used by the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. He had been previously convicted in 2008 on two felony counts of lewd acts on a 6-year-old boy. The trial in March was a retrial from 2008 that involved a second victim, and also included another victim who came forward after the first trial.
Christensen's trial brought about one of the truly sickening dialogues of the year.
A 6-year-old told his father that "Scott touches me," Deputy District Attorney Nagy Morcos told jurors in his opening statement. "Why didn't you tell me before,'' his father asked the boy, according to Morcos. "But, Dad, you said to tell you when it hurts, but it didn't. It tickled, it felt good," the boy told his father.
Christensen was found guilty.
In June, a 7-year-old boy suffered a harrowing experience while using the restroom at Crown Books, which had opened two months earlier. He was in a stall when a man tried to crawl under a partition from the adjacent stall. The boy managed to get away—but so did the attacker. A police sketch was circulated, but he hasn’t been found.
Also in June, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange paid $2 million to settle a civil suit in which a military pilot claimed that Michael Harris had sexually abused him in the mid-1980s while Harris was princpal at Mater Dei. After that incident Harris became the founding principal of Santa Margarita Catholic High, in 1987, and had been a defendant in a 2001 abuse case against an SMCHS student; in that instance, the church doled out a $5.2 million settlement.
In October, 17 months after his arrest, Robert Bruce Engel of Mission Viejo finally went to court on felony indecent exposure and was found guilty. Engel is the previously convicted sex offender who masturbated in front of a couple of teen girls in the Rancho Santa Margarita Library.
In December, the state appeals court decided to review a county law that bans registered sex offenders from county parks and other recreational areas—similar to the one approved by Rancho Santa Margarita's City Council in February. The law, though, doesn't have much bite: Area homeowner associations, which own the parks, weren't keen on enforcing the law that will almost assuredly result in litigation.
RSM's ordinance was inspired by the library incident in May, 2011.