◼ Trial starts for former Fortuna teacher
A jury has been selected and testimony began Thursday in the trial of a former Fortuna Union High School teacher who is accused of having sex with a 17-year-old student.
Dierdre Marie Peterson, 41, is charged with unlawful sex, oral copulation with a minor and molesting a minor. She has pleaded not guilty, claiming that she was raped, according to court documents.
District Attorney Paul Gallegos told the jury Thursday in his opening statement that although Peterson was known for taking in “stray” children and helping them get through tough times, she made some bad decisions.
”In this case, the story you will hear is good intentions and poor choices, and the regret and deceit that often follow those kind of decisions,” he said.
Gallegos called many of Peterson's activities admirable, such as her youth leadership role in church and caring for others, but that she took things too far.
”There's nothing wrong with attraction but Ms. Peterson chose to act on it,” he said.
Gallegos briefly described the alleged sexual acts the victim detailed to police. When Kim Peterson, the defendant's husband, was out of town and the victim was sleeping over at the Peterson home, Dierdre Peterson allegedly gave the victim a back massage that escalated to sexual intercourse.
The alleged acts took place around June 2008.