DA doesn’t file charges against Sassarini custodian
Citing a lack of evidence, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office declined to file charges on Thursday against Richard Piskulic, a longtime custodian at Sassarini Elementary School who was arrested on Oct. 5 on charges of child molestation.
“However, the case is ongoing and we will continue to investigate these allegations,” District Attorney Jill Ravitch told the Index-Tribune. “We encourage anyone who has information on this case to contact law enforcement, which I believe in this case is the Sonoma Sheriff’s Department.”
The 53-year-old Vallejo resident’s defense attorney, Joe Stogner, said his client was “gratified” by Thursday’s decision not to file charges, and seemed surprised to hear the investigation would continue.
“I suppose there are some loose ends to tie up, but we’re confident the case will remain as it is today, which is unfiled,” Stogner said. “There are few things as terrifying as being falsely accused of a crime, especially if that person works for a school district. … He’s been very touched by the support he’s received from friends and colleagues in a difficult time.”
Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendant Louann Carlomagno said the district is working closely with its attorneys to determine how to proceed.
“I think we need to work closely with our legal counsel on the best next steps as the district attorney has made it clear the investigation is not over,” she said. “If any of our employees are under investigation, we rely on our attorneys for the next steps.”
The case began on Oct. 4, when Sonoma police were notified after a Sassarini student told his parents the custodian touched his genitals while the pair were in one of the school’s bathrooms. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Unit was brought in to assist with the investigation, which ultimately led to the arrest of Piskulic at his home. On Oct. 5, the school district contacted all Sassarini parents with a phone message notifying them that their children would bring home a sealed letter. That letter provided a brief description of the situation and instructed parents to discuss safety outside the home with their children. Piskulic has worked for the school for 31 years, and Carlomagno said the school was cautious not to directly identify him.
“The letter just said a Sassarini custodian. We were very sensitive to the fact that these were allegations and the charges have not yet been filed,” she said.
Ravitch said her office thoroughly investigated the allegations before deciding not to move forward with charges.
“We evaluate the evidence, and we have a burden of proof to reach which was not met by the evidence we have today,” she said. “We don’t file charges until we have sufficient evidence to do so … I want to be very clear, the investigation is not over.”
She said her office would continue to work closely with the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department as the investigation continues. Stogner said he is hopeful Piskulic can return to work.
“We expect the (school) district to make a statement very shortly on this,” he said.
Carlomagno reiterated that the school district would proceed based on the recommendations of its attorney.