OTTAWA — A prosecutor described a Kalida teacher Monday as a man who preyed on young girls he taught or coached to satisfy his sense of sexual gratification.
Assistant Putnam County Prosecutor Todd Schroeder promised to present a mountain of evidence against Jeremy Stober to prove Stober spent his entire teaching career of nearly 20 years grooming girls for sexual relationships.
But Stober’s attorney, John Fisher of Lima, called the prosecution of Stober a “witch hunt” that escalated out of control in the small community of Kalida.
Fisher said there is no evidence against his client to prove the charges. Fisher said the best the prosecution can do is present testimony from several girls an investigator conditioned to believe they were victims.
“That is the absolute furthest thing from the truth,” Fisher said of the prosecutor’s statements. “There is absolutely no evidence of any of these things.”
Stober, 42, is charged with sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, importuning, four counts of gross sexual imposition and tampering with evidence. Stober’s career with Kalida schools began in 1993. Most recently, he was the district’s technology coordinator and coached girls volleyball for 13 years.
During the first day of trial, Schroeder promised to back his statements with testimony, cell phone records including text messages and video of Stober masturbating that he allegedly sent to one of the girls.
Fisher reminded jurors Schroeder must back up everything he promised to prove.
“Evidence is what you hear from the witness stand. That is the furthest thing from the truth you ever heard,” Fisher said.
Schroeder told the jury of nine women and three men about a man who used his position of authority as a teacher and volleyball coach to get close to teenage girls.
“He believed when he looked at her, she was the one for him,” Schroeder said of several of Stober’s alleged victims.
Fisher said investigators contacted or tried to contact every girl Stober coached or taught during his career to find anyone they could convince Stober was a sexual predator.
“They convinced everyone that they had a Jerry Sandusky running lose in Kalida,” Fisher said, referring to the former Penn State football assistant coach now serving a prison sentence for sexually assaulting young boys.
“This is a witch hunt, an absolute witch hunt in the Kalida community,” Fisher said. “This thing has turned from a text message to a snowball to an avalanche.”
Schroeder said Stober’s crimes started during his first year of teaching in 1994 and continued until 2012, when they were discovered and he was placed on leave.
Stober’s method of operation was similar in each case, Schroeder said. Stober started out contacting a girl, often through text messages and sometimes in person. That would escalate to flirting and then Stober expressing his desire to have sexual relations with a girl, including grabbing some of the girls, Schroeder said.
Schroeder said Stober was able to groom one of the girls into a sexual relationship. At least two of the girls were volleyball players on the team Stober coached, Schroeder said.
Fisher said Schroeder cannot back up his statements.
“Show me a witness, one witness, who will back up these things Mr. Schroeder said,” Fisher said. He said the only thing the prosecution has against Stober is a rocky marriage and an attempt to bait him into a trap with a girl who already had graduated.
“It alludes to doing something, possibly after graduation,” Fisher said. “That’s the worst thing this is going to indicate, this text message.”