National City elementary teacher pleads not guilty to child sex abuse charges
A National City elementary school teacher who allegedly groomed and committed sex acts upon one of her former students pleaded not guilty Monday to 15 felony counts, including forcible lewd acts on a child and possession of child pornography.
Jacqueline Ma, a sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln Acres Elementary School who was named one of the county's top educators last year, was initially arrested last Tuesday after a parent suspected her 13-year-old son was "possibly having an inappropriate relationship with a former teacher," according to the National City Police Department.
Ma was released on $100,000 bail, but was arrested again on Thursday for additional alleged crimes following further investigation into the case, police said.
In his argument to keep Ma in custody without bail, Deputy District Attorney Drew Hart described the defendant as "obsessive, possessive, controlling and dangerous" towards the boy, thus presenting a danger to him if released. The prosecutor also argued she was a flight risk, as she faces up to 29 years in state prison if convicted of all charges.
Hart said Ma began a sexual relationship with the boy starting when he was 12 years old, sent him illicit photographs of herself, and requested he record himself committing sex acts.
According to the prosecutor, upon Ma's arrest, a photograph of the boy was found in her wallet, she had jewelry bearing his initials, and love letters to the boy were discovered in her classroom.
The prosecutor said the pair communicated over messaging apps that concealed their communications. In some of their messages, she "expressed frustration with the child for not responding to her quicker. She expressed being jealous at times when she believed this victim was talking to other girls," Hart said.
She also allegedly tried to contact the victim after bailing out of jail following her first arrest, though the nature of that contact was not disclosed.
Defense attorney Mario Vela asked for Ma to be released on her own recognizance, arguing she has no prior criminal history and is not a flight risk due to her longtime residency in Southern California.
The attorney said she did not represent a danger to the alleged victim and described the allegations as "isolated incidents and isolated events."
Superior Court Judge Carlos Varela ordered Ma remain held without bail, citing her placement in a "position of trust" towards the victim and that one of the lewd acts counts involves duress.
Officials with the National School District said in a statement that Ma has since been placed on leave "and will not be returning to the campus." The school's website lists Ma as a classroom teacher and technology site liaison.