9.27.2008

Belant - 4 articles

☛ TS Teacher's aide, assistant youth director arrested on molestation charges
03/04/2008 01:24:31 AM PST
Parents and parishioners were notified by officials after a man who worked as a elementary school teacher's aide and a junior youth pastor was arrested over the weekend on charges of child molestation.

Humboldt County Sheriff's detectives, assisted by investigators from the District Attorney's Office, arrested Andrew Brian Belant, 25, at his Eureka home Saturday after Child Welfare Services reported he had been accused of sexually abusing a minor, according to the Sheriff's department.

Belant, a teacher's aide at Jacoby Creek School and an assistant youth director at the Eureka First Presbyterian Church, was charged with two separate counts of child molestation involving a child under 14.

The Rev. Dan Price said the church's elected representatives will meet Thursday to discuss what steps the church will take next. Price said Belant had been working at the church for about 18 months. The church alerted members at a congregational meeting on Sunday.

”We were shocked and dismayed to hear about the allegations,” Price said. “Our hearts go out to the victims.”

Officials said Belant previously worked at Lafayette Elementary School and the Humboldt Child Care Council, and had been screened by multiple agencies before beginning his employment at both the school and the church.

Superintendent/Principal Eric Grantz said Belant had been employed for five weeks as an aide in a second grade class.

”He went through a very thorough background check, not only by us, but by Eureka City Schools and the Humboldt State University teaching program,” Grantz said. He added that currently, there are no known victims from the school.

All second grader's parents were contacted Sunday by telephone and a letter went out yesterday to the entire school community.

”At this point we're just waiting to see what the investigation turns up,” Grantz said. “He certainly won't be on campus until the issue is resolved and probably won't be on it again.”

Belant's bail was set at $300,000 and he is expected to be arraigned Wednesday.

For more information, parents can call Sheriff's Detective Troy Garey at 268-3643 or District Attorney Investigator Bill Honsal at 445-7411.

Jacoby Creek School letter to parents
March 3, 2008
Dear Parents,

On Saturday, March 1st, second grade teacher assistant Andrew Belant was arrested by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department for alleged molestation. Mr. Belant has been an employee of our district for the past five weeks, and as is our policy for all new employees, Mr. Belant's background check included fingerprinting, which indicated no prior criminal record. Additionally, there are no known victims from our school and I am taking steps to ensure that Mr. Belant will not have any contact with any of our students as an employee of this district until final disposition of the Sheriff's Department's investigation.

Events such as this serve as a reminder of the importance of talking with out children about personal safety. They need to know how to say “NO” both assertively and loudly, and they need to know the importance of seeking immediate adult help.

As this case unfolds, and when additional information becomes available, I will let you know. In the meantime should you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at school.

Sincerely,
Eric Grantz
Superintendent/Principal

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or dtam@times-standard.com.

☛ TS Alleged child molester pleads not guilty
 03/05/2008 01:15:46 AM PST

A teacher's aide and junior youth pastor pleaded not guilty Tuesday to six felony counts of child molestation on three victims, but more alleged victims are coming forward and more charges may be filed, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Andrew Brian Belant, 25, a teacher's aide at Jacoby Creek School and an assistant youth director at the Eureka First Presbyterian Church was arrested Saturday. The court set Belant's bail at $300,000. Belant did not waive time, so his preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 14.

”We expect to file numerous additional counts against him,” said Deputy District Attorney Allan Dollison.
A call to Belant's attorney was not immediately returned.

Officials said Belant previously worked at Lafayette Elementary School and the Humboldt Child Care Council. He had been screened by multiple agencies, including Eureka City Schools and the Humboldt State University teaching program, before beginning his employment at both the school and the church.

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or dtam@times-standard.com.


☛ TS More charges filed against accused child molester
03/07/2008 08:56:53 AM PST
Andrew Brian Belant
A teacher's aide and junior youth pastor arrested on child molestation charges over the weekend was charged with four additional counts alleging the sexual assault or molestation of a child, and more may be tacked on as the case unfolds, officials said Thursday.

At Tuesday's arraignment of Andrew Brian Belant, 25, the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office amended the charges, including the addition of one with a special allegation of threatening to retaliate against a victim or another person. Belant pleaded not guilty.

Belant's attorney Patrik Griego didn't return calls seeking comment Thursday.

The Sheriff's detective investigating the case booked Belant on 15 additional charges Tuesday night, but the District Attorney's Office had not filed more charges against him as of Thursday afternoon.

Deputy District Attorney Allan Dollison said there are multiple alleged victims, but would not give a specific number. Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brenda Godsey said the case involves more than three children, but also wouldn't give a specific figure.

Due to the additional charges, Belant's bail was raised from $300,000 to $800,000 on Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, the investigating detective was out interviewing people in relation to the case, Godsey said.

Belant worked as a teacher's aide at Jacoby Creek Elementary School at the time of his arrest and was listed as the middle school ministry director at the Eureka First Presbyterian Church on its Web site. He also previously worked at Lafayette Elementary School, the Humboldt Child Care Council, and the Triumphant Life Camp on Highway 36 just east of Bridgeville. He had been screened by multiple agencies before starting work at the school and the church, officials said.

Belant was employed at the Jacoby Creek site for five weeks as an aide in a second grade class. On Sunday, all of the second graders' parents were contacted by telephone and a letter to the entire school community was sent out Monday.

Belant is believed to have lived in Humboldt County for more than one year, Dollison said. Whether any of the allegations are related to his work is unclear.

”Our hands are really tied to protect the identity of the victims,” Godsey said. “The message we're trying to get out is to just really equip the parents and community with as much information as we're legally allowed to give out.”

The Sheriff's Office said parents with questions or concerns can contact Sheriff's Detective Troy Garey at 268-3643 or DA Investigator Bill Honsal at 445-7411.

Staff Writer Donna Tam contributed to this report.
Karen Wilkinson can be reached at 441-0514 or kwilkinson@times-standard.com.


☛ TS DA: Investigation into child molestation case could take two weeks
03/08/2008 01:24:11 AM PST

Investigators are continuing to interview witnesses in an ongoing child molestation case into allegations against a former teacher's aide and youth minister, officials said.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos said it may take up to two weeks to wrap up interviews with the children that Andrew Brian Belant was around at his various jobs.

”There's just a lot of work right now,” Gallegos said. “Because of the nature of it, we want to be methodical and make sure we've talked to every kid he's had access to.”

Belant, 25, was arrested March 1 on two charges of child molestation. Four more charges alleging the sexual assault or molestation of a child were added at his Tuesday arraignment, including one with a special allegation of threatening to retaliate against a victim or another person.

Belant pleaded not guilty to all charges. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 14.

Belant's attorney, Patrik Griego, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The Humboldt County Sheriff's detective investigating the case booked Belant on 15 additional charges Tuesday night, but the district attorney's office has not filed new charges.

Gallegos said he may file new counts next week, but his office isn't in a rush to amend the charges.

Belant was working at Jacoby Creek Elementary School as a teacher's aide in a second-grade class for five weeks. All second graders' parents were contacted Sunday by telephone and a letter went out Monday to the entire school community.

Belant was also working at the Eureka First Presbyterian Church as a part-time assistant youth pastor, the Rev. Dan Price said, and his responsibilities were with middle school-aged children. Church officials informed members of Belant's arrest at a congregational meeting on Sunday.

”It's a terrible shock, it's a complete shock,” Price said Friday. “This is shocking to us because we're pretty careful -- we have clear guidelines that we follow.”

Belant, who had been working at the church for 18 months, was placed on administrative leave without pay, effective March 1, after a Thursday night church elder meeting, Price said.

Officials said Belant previously worked at Lafayette Elementary and the Humboldt Child Care Council and had been screened by multiple agencies before working at the church and Jacoby Creek school.
Gallegos said the alleged victims are male, but wouldn't provide their ages or specify where they met Belant.

”It's pretty terrible on these kids,” Gallegos said. “It looks like it's a bona fide predator -- it's what he does, he puts himself in positions of trust.”

Gallegos said Belant's family is from the San Diego area, but it's unclear where he grew up.

Price said the church is fully committed to offering every resource it can to help the community heal.

”This is a first to us, it's quite humbling and shocking,” Price said.

Belant is being held at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on $800,000 bail.

Karen Wilkinson can be reached at 441-0514 or kwilkinson@times-standard.com