UPDATED: Cerritos-Artesia Dance Instructor Arrested for Sending Lewd Texts to 15-Year-Old

The 53-year-old former dance instructor for the Orange County High School of the Arts -- who has also taught ballroom dance classes through the city of Cerritos -- was arrested on a warrant for misdemeanor child annoyance.

- Updated at 6:30 p.m. with information on settlement of sexual harassment case filed against Nielsen when he was the La Habra Heights fire chief. 

Editor's Note: Court documents, reports and news releases have the accused last name spelled as both "Nielsen" and/or "Nielson."

A former dance instructor for the Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana -- who has also taught ballroom dance lessons to children and adults through the city of Cerritos and at  in Artesia -- was arrested at his Cerritos home today on a warrant for misdemeanor child annoyance for allegedly sending sexually suggestive text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

John Juul Nielsen, 53, was arrested this morning and was booked at the Santa Ana city jail, with bail set at $15,000 bail, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Nielsen started working at the high school part-time in September 2010 and was fired on Jan. 13, according to a school spokewoman.

“Be assured that the Orange County High School of the Arts takes all student safety issues very seriously and is fully cooperating with law enforcement, ''a school statement says. "It is our practice to investigate any concerns promptly and diligently, under the advice and assistance of law enforcement officers and legal counsel. Providing a safe environment for all our students and staff is a top priority for the Orange County High School of the Arts administration.''

Nielsen sent numerous text messages to the girl between Oct. 15 and Jan. 11,  according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. The texts contained "revealing information about his personal life, including details about his current and past relationships,'' prosecutors allege. 

Nielsen also accused of having "sexually inappropriate conversations'' with the girl and asking her for an “exclusive” dating relationship, according to the D.A.'s office and police.

School officials reported the case to police after other students became suspicious of the relationship between the defendant and victim.

“He stated that he fell in love with this 15-year-old and he was coming on to her'' in the text messages, Bertagna said. "So she went to him and said, 'Stop it.' He continued, so she confided in a friend, who went to a counselor, who investigated and notified school officials.''

"At the first reporting he was immediately placed on administrative leave and was terminated after we believed there was substance to the accusation," Cambria Morgan, a school spokeswoman, told the Orange County Register. 

The married father of three could face up to a year in jail and be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life if convicted.

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Santa Ana police Det. Ed Zaragoza at (714) 245-8351 or Supervising District Attorney Investigator Carl Waddell at (714) 834-7538.

Nielsen Has Taught Ballroom Dance to Children in Artesia and Cerritos

Nielsen, the owner of Ballroom InterDance -- which rents dance space at in Artesia -- became a certified professional ballroom dance instructor with the Danish Dance Teacher Association in 1985, according to the studio's website. (See YouTube video in image carousel of Nielsen teaching students.)

He has also taught ballroom dance classes to children and adults through the city of Cerritos Recreation Services program. He and his students often participate in the Cerritos , most recently taking part in the festivities in 2011.

"He was an instructor for ballroom dance class (through the city) but he is no longer," Cerritos spokesperson Annie Hylton told Patch on Wednesday afternoon, adding that it was unclear when his employment as a dance teacher with the city began or ended.  

Jerry Wu, Director of the dance program at Quest in Artesia, said the news of Nielsen's arrest was a complete shock.

"He's been here for quite a while and he works with city of Cerritos, he's tied in with the entire community, so that's why he was working here," he added. "My mind is kind of spinning right now. I did not see this coming and I never thought anything like this would happen."

Wu emphasized that Nielsen is not employed by Quest but did rent a space in their building for his dance classes.

"His company rented the space from us, so we in no way run their program ... I couldn't even tell you how their program is structured," Wu added.

After speaking to his supervisor about 5 p.m., Wu issued the following statement:

"We will no longer be working with him, he won't be here (at Quest) anymore. And though he rents a space from us, this is a serious situation and we take it very seriously."

InterDance's information on the Quest website has also been taken down, according to Wu.

Nielsen, Once Fire Chief at La Habra Heights, Has Been Accused of Sexual Harassment in Past

Though news of Nielsen's arrest comes as a shock to those in the Cerritos-Artesia area, a source close to the police investigation told Patch that the dance instructor has faced sexual harassment allegations in the past.

In addition to being a local dance instructor, Nielsen joined the La Habra Heights Fire Department as Fire Chief in October 2002 (click here to see Nielsen speaking as Fire Chief at a 2006 council meeting), but suddenly resigned from his post in early December 2008 -- less than a month after former Paramedic Coordinator Sabraina Somma filed a lawsuit against the city of La Habra Heights, Fire Chief John J. Nielsen and (her supervisor at the time) Ken Hill alleging repeated sexual/gender harassment and discrimination, libelous comments by Nielsen. 

In a portion of the complaint, which was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court -- Central District on Nov. 19, 2008, Somma alleges that:

Nielsen stated to her, "Sabrina, I am sorry all the times I have made you feel bad, I will make up for that in the future, by making you feel good and comfetable [sic] with me, I promise you I can make you feel like you have never felt before. LOVE ME."

The complaint also states that Nielsen "repeatedly discussed his private life and sexual activity with Plaintiff," adding that he propositioned Somma to meet him at a hotel room.

The Plaintiff stated that despite her requests for him to stop, Nielsen's hostile sexual behavior continued through the termination of her employment in Feb. 2008, when she was forced to resign.

When Nielsen stepped down as fire chief in late 2008, La Habra Heights City Manager Shauna Clark said he gave no reason why he left his post, according to the Whittier Daily News.

The parties involved in the legal mater eventually signed a confidential Settlement Agreement dated August 31, 2009, releasing all claims with no admission of liability, according to a court document provided to Patch by LaHabraHeights.net. The city's insurance company (California Joint Powers Insurance Agency) also issued a settlement payment of $375,000 to the Plaintiff.

- City News Service contributed to a portion of this report.

Full disclosure: Patch editor MarieSam Sanchez's daughter was a student in Nielsen's ballroom dance class through the city of Cerritos' Recreation Services program in 2007.



Cattie March 01, 2012 at 03:57 AM
This is so sickening. Cities should do better background checks on employees especialy those who are working directly with children! Im glad to have places like Patch to hear about these things. My brother referred me to this website (he has some kind of crash on the editor), but Im glad to see its a good source for news 2! please keep us up to date on this.
Liza Gomez March 01, 2012 at 05:01 AM
This sick person should never be allowed around children. I worked with him in the Fire Department and they should have been rid of him way before the Sexual Harassment lawsuit was ever filed. He is disgusting!
Christine Ocana Pascual March 01, 2012 at 08:22 AM
This is all allegation. You are vilifying this man in the community for unsubstantiated issues. There is no conviction and yet you are tarnishing his reputation, affecting his business and his ability to support his family. Responsible journalism should take that into consideration. Then again, this is just a community blog. I know this man personally and I can attest for his character. I have three kids in his dance class for over five years and my kids spend a good deal of time with his family, never have I seen any misconduct.
UP THE BRIDGE March 01, 2012 at 05:01 PM
UP THE BRIDGE March 01, 2012 at 05:03 PM
the neighbor March 01, 2012 at 06:41 PM
this girl Sabraina Somma was lying she used to be all the time at his house she would go there to play with his daughters there are alot of witnesses that she alwasys picked fights with him verbally
THE NEIGHBORS March 01, 2012 at 06:42 PM
this girl Sabraina Somma was lying she used to be all the time at his house she would go there to play with his daughters there are alot of witnesses that she alwasys picked fights with him verbally
THE NEIGHBORS March 01, 2012 at 06:46 PM
this somma she would call him names and harrased him and show up at events he was in. this girl was 25 so she knew what she was doing, she was a strong will woman so if anything happend between them. she was no innocent
MarieSam Sanchez (Editor) March 01, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Christine, I totally understand how this article could upset someone. Trust me, as I disclosed in the article, my own daughter was one of his students through the city's ballroom dancing class. I was just as shocked having to report on something like this as you were having to read this. True indeed, in our society, you are considered innocent until proven guilty and because of this, the current news is reported as allegation. However, I disagree with your statement that what has been reported is not responsible journalism. I believe to not report all the details that are known would actually be irresponsible. Nielsen's prior problems as Fire Chief of La Habra Heights is a matter of public record, and if you click on the La Habra Heights publication that contacted us (link is in article) you can read all the court filings yourself. We will have to all just wait and see how this plays out. But as a parent, I have to ask, do you think it's important to know the background of those who come into such close contact with our kids?
Concerned mother March 01, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Nielsen was totally inappropriate with OCHSA students who were also Interdance students. At Interdance, you were able to attend the practices and have direct contact with the Nielsen and your children. Unfortunately, at OCHSA the children are there without parent supervision because they are in school. He was ignorant, chauvnist, and extremely unprofessional by overstepping his boundaries with the students. He is the adult here in this situation, he should know right from wrong. He should be a mentor to all his students, not a person who takes advantage of them.
Richard Foley March 01, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I think "THE NEIGHBORS" should be more concerned that they live next to a pedophile. Seems like the same story for this guy. Couldn't get a grown woman to reply to his inappropriate emails so tried his luck with a little girl & texts.
Desiree March 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM
My child has been taking dance lessons from him for four years. He is a great instructor and a good person. In fact, my mother took lessons from him for sometime until her arthrits set in. These are assumptions and allegations. This is defamation of character.
Richard Foley March 01, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Someone from his own fire department family, the ones that should know best about the mans character. Says alot more than something from a person who sent their kids to the man for a couple of hours a week.
Maddy Miranda March 02, 2012 at 01:12 AM
To think that this was my teacher. GROOSSS! He had always been on the creepy and innapropriate side, but i never thought much of it until now! I remember he would make inapropriate comments to people in his class, such as when i was pulling up my pants and told me to "Stop fixing my thong" and how one time he "checked" if i was wearing any shorts underneath my skirt when i wasnt wearing any.
Daisy555 March 02, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Really!!? Defamation of character. He was fired in January, they have been gathering evidence and officially filed charges and he was ARRESTED! How much more proof do you need?? The DA is not going to arrest you without any evidence. His behavior was inappropriate, disgusting and lewd. In a group setting, sure your kid can be safe... but can you imagine having your daughter alone with him for a private lesson, that is just scary! Just because you think you know a person, does not mean you truly know what he is thinking or what he is capable of.
THE NEIGHBORS March 02, 2012 at 04:09 AM
to RICHARD FOLEY i understand what you are saying living next door.. but unfortunally you never know who lives next door to you. I feel bad for the wife that it was a shock to her and her little girls
Martin March 02, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Concerened Mother makes allegations of how innapropeiate Nielsen was with the students. Funny you should choose such name as concerened mother. You werent concerened enough to voice your opinion then but now? Now you jump on the wagon and chant along. You say that he is the adult in the situation... Seems to me there was another adult in the situation and yet said nothing. Allegations is what they are up to this point. He has not been convicted as of yet. I'm not saying he is innocent, I'm just saying that he deserves his day in court and then we can be shocked and disgusted and all that other good stuff. That there is a settlement when he was a fire chief can also mean that it was cheaper for the city than to fight. This happens all the time. Again, not saying he didn't do it. Give the situation a chance to unfold folks.
Martin March 02, 2012 at 05:58 AM
Let he or she who is without sin cast the first stone..... And cast that stone with conviction! Let the judicial system work. My heart goes out to the families involved it cannot be easy for either side.
Martin March 02, 2012 at 06:13 AM
Ms. Sanchez, do you know what subsection of child annoyance he was charged with?
MarieSam Sanchez (Editor) March 02, 2012 at 06:15 AM
The families and children affected are the ones I feel for as well. It cannot be easy to have to deal with such news.
Concerned mother March 02, 2012 at 06:25 PM
@ Martin... I did voice my opinion several times...there were many complaints/issues/concerns filed against him
Roberta Martin March 03, 2012 at 02:24 AM
As a dance instructor myself who teaches teenagers, the girls are always the ones who have to be checked to make sure they are wearing appropriate dance attire because in a room of both males and females, it is the teacher's responsibility to make sure none of the students exhibit lewd behavior and to make sure they are dressed according to the dress code, which for female students includes the wearing of 'dance pants' or shorts under their skirts. There is no way to make sure a student has done that without doing some kind of dress check going on. If we let girls dance without the 'dance pants' or shorts under their skirts, we are condemned for allowing that same girl - who took issue with being questioned and checked for appropriate attire - to get away with showing off her booty. Which would you rather have? We let you show the world your kiester or we protect you by making sure you have on your dance pants? In the case you describe in your post, this instructor had every reason to check to make sure you were wearing approrpriate dance attire since you clearly knew you were supposed to do so but had decided against compliance. In this instance, he was doing his job.
co worker March 06, 2012 at 04:30 AM
i pray for this family , i worked with him and never have i seen anything that would lead to this , also students this days are extremely rude and they think of everything in order to ruin teachers life. i pray to god everything is solved soon
Concerned Parent March 06, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I wonder why the high school didn't do a background check with the City of La Habra Heights or simply google, they would have found the details of the sexual harassment lawsuit and the $375,000 payout to the female victim?
Concerned Parent March 06, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I read here the City Manager of La Habra Heights did not know why Nielsen resigned as Fire Chief. If you read the sexual harassment settlement, the City Manager actually signed it for $375,000. I do not know if the high school or the City of Cerritos sent or asked the City of La Habra Heights for a background check on Nielsen? I wonder if the High school and Cerritos made inquiries and the information was withheld if this 15 yr old victim has grounds to sue La Habra Heights? It is terrible this young girl was exposed to Nielsen. I hope if there are others, please tell your parents and parents pleass come forward.
SKID March 08, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Evelyn August 11, 2012 at 07:39 PM
He is back to teaching kid's ballroom at one of the dance studios in Anaheim. How sick is that? The community is also to blame in feeding predators like him! Whoever hires this man must do a background check!
Cerritos Parent February 06, 2013 at 09:30 AM
He taught my 2 sons and I ballroom dance and swing @ CPE in Cerritos for a few years. Maybe because I have son's, but I never saw or heard anything inappropriate. He seemed very nice, but predators usually are, aren't they? I think the La Habra incident does lend a little credability to the girls story though. There seems to be a pattern here by completely unrelated parties. Better backround check are a must!
Ed Flores, attorney February 06, 2013 at 02:13 PM
After hearing the so called evidence, this man was acquitted by a jury. They heard all of this young lady's allegations and rejected them as unbelievable. He was accused, vilified, tried and convicted on this blog without hearing all the evidence. Once twelve citizens heard everything and were able to evaluate the credibility of his accuser, they absolved him in less than 30 minutes. We could all do with being more skeptical and critical of allegations and accusations made in the press by prosecuting agencies.
Marilyn Smith February 09, 2013 at 10:44 AM
I have followed this case since it began last year. In the beginning, I was receiving emails from this site with any updates on this case. I find it amazing that now that this man whom this blog was "jonny on the spot" to post supposed truths against this man, causing he and his family a year of stress and money to NOT even mention on this site that he was acquitted as stated in the above posting, nor did they send me an email with such information. This lovely family has suffered so much this past year because of a young girl's lies and John will have this incident follow him for many years to come. It has affected not only his family life, but also cost him his job and hurt him financially and this blog now takes no responsiblilty to help correct some of the damage done by at least posting the outcome of the trial and letting the truth be known. HOW DARE YOU!


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