A former dance instructor at Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, who also taught dance classes in Artesia and Cerritos, was acquitted today of sending sexually suggestive text messages to a 15-year-old student.
Jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes before acquitting John Juul Nielson, 54, of Cerritos, of a misdemeanor count of child annoyance, defense attorney Ed Flores said.
"He was truly not guilty of this," Flores said. "The statute, as it is written, was not designed to capture this kind of conduct."
The defense attorney added, "There is no evidence of sexually suggestive text messages."
Nielson and the girl had exchanged friendly text messages, but the girl deleted the ones she claimed were sexually suggestive, Flores said.
Nielson was "emotional" after the verdict was announced.
"He's been through hell," Flores said. "He's a married man with three daughters of his own and he can't get a job. He's been unemployed because of this. It's been very, very difficult on him and his family. And when you get charged with something like this people automatically treat you like a sex offender."
Deputy District Attorney Christine Warden did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Nielson started working at the high school part-time in September 2010 and was fired Jan. 13 of last year, according to a school spokeswoman.
Nielson was accused of sending numerous text messages to the girl between Oct. 15, 2010, and Jan. 11 of last year. Prosecutors alleged the text messages contained "revealing information about his personal life, including details about his current and past relationships."
Prosecutors also accused Nielson of having "sexually inappropriate conversations" with the girl.
Nielson could have faced up to a year in jail and had to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life if he had been convicted.
Also Taught Ballrom Dancing in Cerritos and Artesia
Nielson has also taught ballroom dance lessons to children and adults through the city of Cerritos and at Quest Learning Center in Artesia.
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- City News Service contributed to this report.
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