MARTINEZ -- A Concord elementary school teacher charged with 150 counts of molestation against 14 victims steadfastly defended his teaching methods and asserted his innocence during almost three hours of cross-examination Thursday.
"Did you ever envision you might be sitting here one day?" Deputy District Attorney Derek Butts asked Joseph Martin early in the morning session.
"Never," the former Woodside Elementary School teacher said.
Butts suggested otherwise, reviewing surveys Martin gave his fourth- and fifth-graders asking such questions as, "Do you like getting hugs and pats on the back from me?" and inviting them to "let me know if there has been a time that ... I hurt your feelings or made you feel badly."
An early version of that questionnaire advised students, "This is a personal letter just between you and me." Butts argued it was Martin's way of making sure his students didn't report the teacher's alleged abuse.
"You don't want them to go home and talk to their parents," Butts said. "You're motivated to control your environment."
"No," Martin said.
"You can convince any 11-year-old that anything they're uncomfortable about is OK," Butts said.
"No," Martin said.
Butts asked Martin about a 2011 survey in which he asked new students what they had heard people say about him. Martin said that was a one-time survey he issued at a time when he was being bad-mouthed by another teacher at the school.
Asked about the testimony of a former fellow churchgoer that he heard Martin confess to him his fantasies about little boys, Martin said that was a misinterpretation of something he told a prayer group: That he dreamed about a young boy he knew, whose infant sibling had died, and who had an abusive father. Martin said he told the prayer group he was disturbed because he was unable to help the boy in his dream.
"Somehow it got translated to dreams about boys," Martin said.
Butts questioned Martin about two boys with whom the teacher was especially close. One was the boy whose sibling had died, and whom Martin admitted giving a consoling kiss on the cheek when the boy began crying during a visit to the teacher's home.
"Was that appropriate given that you were alone, your age, his age and his emotional state?" Butts asked.
"Absolutely, based on his emotional state," Martin replied.
The other boy had lost his mother and, Martin said, also had an abusive father. A 2006 school investigation into Martin resulted in a directive that barred the teacher from physical contact with the boy and from being alone with any students.
"You did not follow that directive with (the boy)," Butts said.
"That's right," Martin said.
"Because you couldn't control yourself," Butts said.
"No," Martin disagreed.
Court was recessed at noon. The trial will resume Monday morning with closing arguments.
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.