Cory Michael Cunningham, who had been charged with sexual penetration of a minor, contacting minor with intent for sex and molesting child under 18 years, was present and in custody for a sentencing hearing. The charge of abuse – endangering a child with gross bodily injury was dismissed last year.
In January the defendant entered a nolo plea for the charge of contacting a minor with intent for sex.
A nolo plea is similar to a guilty plea as it carries the same fundamental consequences, but not the official admission of guilt.
The charges stem from an incident in December of 2019 when the then 38-year-old Kelseyville High School music teacher was arrested for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old student. According to information released by the Kelseyville Unified School District, as a result he was placed on administrative leave and incarcerated.
At the sentencing hearing the Court read and considered the Report and Recommendation of the Lake County Probation Officer.
The victim made a victim impact statement in open court and probation was denied.
It was the judgement of the Court that the defendant is guilty of a felony violation of PC288.3(a) (Contact Minor with Intent for Sex) and as punishment he be imprisoned in state prison for the lower term of eight months.
Financial obligations were ordered with two restitution fines totaling $600.00, a court operations assessment of $40.00, criminal conviction assessment of $30.00 and restitution in the amount of $400.00 plus 10% interest per annum ;payable to the Victim’s Compensation and Government Claim Board.
The defendant was awarded credits for time served and conduct credits, totaling 233 days credit and was remanded to the custody of the Lake County Sheriff.
At the time of this article, the defendant has been released from custody as he completed his state prison sentence.
During a settlement hearing last year, the People made an offer to the defendant that they believed the victim would approve of.
Pursuant to the request of the defendant, the Court ordered this matter be continued to January of this year.
In October of last year, during the arraignment on an information hearing, the defendant entered a not guilty plea to all counts, denying the special allegations.
An arraignment on an information hearing is held after the preliminary hearing in which a judge feels there is enough information to proceed with the case and the defendant is held to answer to the charges.
On the motion of the People, the Court ordered Count 2 (Abuse – Endangering a child with gross bodily injury) of the complaint dismissed.
On another motion of the People, the Court ordered Count 4 (Molesting a child under 18 years of age) of the complaint amended to a misdemeanor.
The People’s witness, Detective Jeffery Mora, was sworn in and testified. The matter was submitted and counsel provided arguments.
It appeared to the Court that the defendant’s felony violations have been committed and that there is sufficient cause to believe that the defendant is guilty thereof. It was ordered that the defendant be held to answer to the charges.
Superintendent Dave McQueen noted then, “As always, our first priority is to safeguard students. We will inform KHS students this week that their teacher will remain out of the classroom until this matter is resolved, and we have put our counselors on notice in case any students need extra support.”
McQueen added in 2020 that since the incarceration of Cunningham is a legal matter, the school district was collaborating with their legal counsel and local law enforcement. “We understand that people are curious about the details of the case; however, we will not share information that may jeopardize the legal investigation or compromise anyone’s right to privacy and/or due process,” said McQueen.
“This is a small, close-knit community and having a teacher arrested on such allegations can bring up a range of difficult emotions for students and the community. Rumors and public speculation are not helpful and can be harmful,” district officials noted.
According to public information from the high school, Cunningham previously taught band, jazz ensemble, choir, guitar and music appreciation.
School officials asked that any questions or information regarding the situation be addressed to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
After the initial arrest, Cunningham was booked on multiple felony charges with bail set at $75,000 and bailed out.
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