Joseph Thomas Koetters, a former English teacher at the elite Marlborough School in Los Angles, pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts relating to his sexual abuse of two female students. Koetters resigned from his most recent teaching job in July 2014 after Buzzfeed reporter Katie J.M. Baker began inquiring about the allegations against him.
Koetters, 48, worked at the Marlborough School for over a decade, then at the Polytechnic School in Pasadena from 2013 to 2014. In June of 2014, one of his former students wrote an essay for xoJane, detailing what she said was a persistent and escalating pattern of sexual harassment.
Koetters wasn’t named in the piece; Baker found him and began interviewing his former students, finding what she called “a charming, engaging teacher who often blurred professional boundaries.” At least two other students had complained about his behavior towards them, she learned, while the school took no action. Before her piece was published, Koetters had left his job at Polytechnic, and both schools quickly sent out statement assuring parents their children were safe and they were taking the allegations seriously.
In July 2014, a woman went to the police and said she had a sexual relationship with Koetters in 2000, when she was 16 and a student at Marlborough. During the abuse, the girl became pregnant and ultimately miscarried. She said the “relationship” continued for two years, and that Koetters pressured her to have an abortion when he learned she was pregnant.
Koetters was arrested and charged with four felony sex crimes on the basis of her statement to police, then charged with ten more after a second student came forward to disclose he sexually abused her in 2004.
Koetters’ attorney and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced last week they’d reached a plea agreement, which he formally accepted today. He’s pleading guilty to just four of the fourteen original charges he faced: two counts each of oral copulation of a person under 18 and two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object. He will serve one year in jail. He will also be required to register as a sex offender and forbidden from contact with any female minor under 18, aside from his daughter.
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Koetters during a February 2015 court hearing. Screengrab via ABC 7