Costa Mesa Music Teacher Charged With Molesting Girls; Prosecutors Seek More Survivors

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Costa Mesa Music Teacher Charged With Sexual Assault; More Potential Survivors Sought

Costa Mesa Music Teacher Charged With Sexual Assault; More Potential Survivors Sought

Mar 3, 2022

A Costa Mesa, California, music teacher has been charged with a dozen felonies in relation to allegedly molesting two girls over the course of several years. The sexual abuse by the music teacher occurred when the students were just four and five years old, according to the Costa Mesa Police Department.

Prosecutors from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office sought the public’s help Wednesday in an effort to locate possible additional sexual abuse survivors who may have been harmed by the music teacher.

The suspect, Anthony “Tony” Philip Bruccoliere of Costa Mesa, 49, was arrested on February 11 and charged on February 15 for sexually assaulting the two girls between December 2008 and 2019, according to the criminal complaint.

The two girls, who are now teenagers, reported that Bruccoliere had molested them in several locations, including his music studio, according to authorities.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Bruccoliere owned a music studio called Brucco Music in Orange, California. The newspaper was not able to confirm whether the studio is still open.

Orange County Superior Court records confirm that Bruccoliere is facing the following charges:

  • Four felony counts of a forcible lewd act upon a child under 14
  • One felony count of sexual penetration of a child 10 years or younger
  • Five felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child
  • Two felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14

The Costa Mesa music teacher faces a maximum sentence of 180 years to life if convicted on all counts.

Bruccoliere reportedly posted $1 million bail late last month and is expected to appear in court Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Local NBC 4 reported that Bruccoliere is scheduled for arraignment on March 12, 2022.

This man has become a parent’s worst nightmare by preying on innocent young girls,” Orange County District Attorney, Todd Spitzer, said in a prepared statement. “The years of trauma these girls were forced to endure is unspeakable. The pain and suffering of sexual assault doesn’t just end when the physical attack is over; the psychological damage continues throughout the victims’ entire life,” Spitzer added.

“He’s [Bruccoliere] shocked by the allegations and he looks forward to proving that they’re not true,” the suspect’s attorney, Mark Fredrick, said Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Authorities suspect that Bruccoliere’s position as a music teacher may have allowed him access to other children who could have been sexually assaulted. Potential sexual assault survivors or anyone with information related to Bruccoliere or the ongoing investigation is urged to contact one of the following law enforcement officials:

  • Costa Mesa Police Detective Alicia DeFuria at 714-754-5364 or adefuria@costamesaca.gov
  • Costa Mesa Police Sergeant Jose Morales at 714-754-4893

How Common is Teacher/Coach/Clergy Sexual Abuse?

A recent study issued by the U.S. Education Department confirmed that reports of sexual violence in schools rose more than 50% between the 2015 and 2016 school year. Such a dramatic increase in school sexual abuse, including crimes committed by teachers, has caused parents to be rightfully outraged, with many becoming more vigilant and taking steps to keep their children safe.

In recent months, Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) blog has featured countless stories of local educators and coaches being either charged or convicted of sex crimes against children.

Some of those recent Los Angeles-area teacher or coach sexual abuse crimes include:

How Does California Law Define Teacher/Coach Sexual Abuse?

Children are considered minors under California law. Accordingly, a child is never able to give consent, and any sexual act involving a minor is considered abuse. Under the law, teacher or coach abuse can entail sexual assault or sexual exploitation.

California law broadly defines child sexual assault as including any sexual act, such as rape, sodomy, incest, oral sex, etc. Furthermore, the following actions by a teacher or coach constitute a sex crime under California law:

  • Sexual penetration with objects, fingers, or genitals
  • Contact between genitals or the mouth of one person and genitals of another
  • Intentional touching of the genitals or intimate areas
  • Masturbation in the presence of a child

Under California law, sexual exploitation of a child can also include depicting a minor in any of the aforementioned acts that are considered sexual assault. Teachers or coaches who promote, use, or coerce a child into participating in (or encouraging others to participate in) the following actions are committing sexual exploitation:

  • Nude modeling
  • Prostitution
  • Any kind of live sexual performance

Furthermore, the law explicitly forbids any teacher or coach from coercing a child’s guardian into allowing such sexual exploitation or assault.

What is Sexual Grooming by Teachers or Coaches?

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), many child sexual abuse cases are preceded by grooming. Through understanding sexual grooming and learning to identify such behaviors on the part of teachers, coaches, clergy, relatives, etc., parents can help protect their children from potential abuse.

The ABA defines sexual grooming as:

A preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person’s or organization’s trust with the intent to be sexually abusive.

When sexual grooming occurs, the victim is typically a child, teen, or vulnerable adult.

What Tactics Will Sexual Predators or Groomers Use on Children?

Whether online or in person, groomers frequently use specific tactics, such as:

  • Pretending to be younger
  • Giving advice or showing understanding
  • Buying gifts
  • Giving attention
  • Taking children on trips, outings, or holidays

Sexual predators will use also grooming tactics in an effort to:

  • Manipulate the perceptions of other adults around the child
  • Manipulate the child into becoming a co-operating participant (which reduces the likelihood of a disclosure and increases the likelihood that the child will repeatedly return to the offender)
  • Reduce the likelihood of the child being believed if they do disclose
  • Reduce the likelihood of the abuse being detected

The relationship a groomer builds with a child can take many different forms, such as:

  • A romantic relationship
  • A mentor
  • An authority figure
  • A dominant and persistent figure

A groomer will often use the same sites, games, and apps as young people, taking time to learn about a young person’s interests and use this to build a relationship with them. Children can be groomed online through:

  • Social media networks
  • Text messages and messaging apps (like Whatsapp)
  • Email
  • Text, voice, and video chats (through forums, games, and apps)

Dordulian Law Group’s SAJE Team Discusses Sexual Grooming

In a recent blog post, DLG’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, offered specific tips for parents on how to protect children from sexual predators:

“It’s critically important to remember that sexual predators are notorious for seeking out positions (whether as a professional or volunteer) that allow them access to children. Granted, 95% of coaches, teachers, clergy, volunteers at religious institutions, etc. are likely upstanding citizens. But parents need to be aware that there’s no standard model for a sexual predator. A predator can be any of age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.,” said Dordulian, a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County who has obtained life sentences against some of our community’s most heinous sex offenders.

“One major problem I consistently encounter with parents is their tendency to automatically view these individuals as sort of noble citizens. They don’t appreciate the potential predator instinct any random coach, teacher, clergy member, or even close friend or relative could have. I often tell parents about a case I was involved in as a Deputy District Attorney, where a teacher openly admitted that he chose the profession in order to have unlimited access to children. So, it’s important for parents to be aware that any professional who has direct private access to their children could potentially be a predator. Without encouraging paranoia, you do, in a sense, almost have to be on constant alert, because it can impact any child of any age/gender at any time. It’s not by accident that these people became teachers or coaches or clergy, it’s by design,” Dordulian added.

Additionally, DLG’s SAJE Team Chief Investigator and retired Los Angeles Police Department sex crimes detective, Moses Castillo, offered some important tips for parents:

“It’s very important for parents to realize that the majority of sexual predators aren’t strangers, but someone close to the child and the child’s family. Whether it’s a coach, teacher, clergy member, family friend, or even a close relative, most childhood sexual abuse is committed by a familiar face,” said Detective Castillo.

“If an adult makes regular efforts to spend more time (typically alone) with your child than you do as their parent, that’s a red flag,” Castillo added. “Premeditated attempts to get a child alone – whether to go out for ice cream, take a trip to an amusement park, the movies, etc. – are situations that can be conducive to sexual abuse.”

What are the Signs of a Sexual Predator Grooming a Child?

According to the ABA, the key to understanding the concept of sexual grooming is recognizing common behaviors that predators utilize while applying these tactics on victims for sexual abuse. Common sexual grooming behaviors are often subtle and may not appear inappropriate to the untrained eye.

These behaviors may include:

  • An adult seeming overly interested in a child
  • An adult frequently initiating or creating opportunities to be alone with a child (or multiple children)
  • An adult becoming fixated on a child
  • An adult giving special privileges to a child (e.g. rides to and from practices, etc.)
  • An adult befriending a family and showing more interest in building a relationship with the child than with the adults
  • An adult displaying favoritism towards one child within a family
  • An adult finding opportunities to buy a child gifts
  • An adult catering to the interests of the child, so a child or the parent may initiate contact with the offender
  • An adult displaying age and gender preferences

What are the Warning Signs of Sexual Grooming in Children?

It can often be difficult for parents to tell if a child is being groomed by a sexual predator. The signs aren’t always obvious, and groomers go to great lengths to keep them hidden. Moreover, older children might behave in ways that appear to be “normal” teenage behavior, further masking underlying problems.

Some possible signs of child sexual grooming that parents should be aware of include:

  • Being very secretive about how they’re spending their time, including when online
  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
  • Underage drinking or drug taking
  • Spending more or less time online or on their devices
  • Being upset, withdrawn, or distressed
  • Sexualized behavior, language, or an understanding of sex that’s not appropriate for their age
  • Spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time

It is unlikely that a child will know that he/she is being groomed. However, if parents explain the process and educate children to the fact that grooming not only exists but is quite prevalent, they’ll likely be less prone to falling victim to such tactics.

When grooming occurs, a child might be worried or confused, and therefore less likely to speak to a trusted adult. For parents who are concerned or would like additional information on sexual grooming, DLG’s SAJE Team is available to answer any questions you may have 24/7 via 818-322-4056.

What is California AB 218 and How Does it Impact School Sexual Abuse Claims?

For childhood sex crimes, the California statute of limitations is temporarily paused under Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218). AB 218, which took effect on January 1, 2020, tolls (pauses) the statute of limitations on all childhood sex crimes through the end of 2022.

In other words, all survivors of childhood sexual abuse or assault may currently file civil claims seeking financial compensation until December 31, 2022. However, as of January 1, 2023, the standard statute of limitations will resume, and survivors who did not file claims will likely be left without any legal recourse.

Additionally, California AB 218 includes a treble damages clause which gives the courts latitude to triple financial damages awards in cases where a cover-up is proven. For example, if you are a sexual abuse survivor who was victimized through a systemic cover-up (at either an individual or institutional level), and that malfeasance was able to be proven in court, a $1 million damages award could theoretically be increased to $3 million under the AB 218 treble damages clause.

AB 218’s treble damages clause was included in the legislation in an effort to severely punish bad actors who participated in systemic cover-ups, often over the course of several decades. Such cover-ups in organizations including the Boy Scouts of America and Catholic Church have impacted countless innocent survivors, but AB 218 offers all victims an opportunity at justice.

For additional information on California AB 218 and how it offers survivors of childhood sexual abuse an unprecedented opportunity at justice, please visit our recent blog post.

How to Talk to Children About Sexual Predator Grooming

DLG is proud to be a member of RAINN’s (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) National Leadership Council. The following preventative steps outlined by RAINN can be helpful in reducing child sexual grooming:

  • Show interest in your children’s daily lives. Ask about what they do during the day, who they sit with at lunch, and what they do after school.
  • Get to know the people who influence your children. Find out who they spend time with, who their friends’ parents are, and what they think about their teammates and coaches.
  • Screen caregivers carefully. This includes, for example, babysitters and those in charge of after-school activities.
  • Talk about sexual violence portrayed and discussed in the media. Ask children whether they have ever heard about an act of sexual abuse happening to someone else, and what they would do if they found themselves in a compromising situation.
  • Teach children about boundaries. Clearly explain that no one – including relatives – has the right to touch their private parts or otherwise make them feel sexually uncomfortable.
  • Teach children how to talk about their bodies. Children should learn the correct names for all body parts at an early age, which will encourage them to speak up if something happens.
  • Make yourself available to talk AND listen. Let children know they can come to you without fear of punishment if they have questions or someone is making them uncomfortable.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Questions like “Is there anything else you want to talk about?” are more likely to prompt discussion than yes/no questions like “did you have a good time?”

Contact a Los Angeles, California, School Sexual Assault/Abuse Lawyer

California school sexual assault civil lawsuits may be brought by survivors of adult family members in an effort to recover financial compensation for various types of losses. Depending on the circumstances of sex crime, compensatory damages may be pursued and recovered through a civil claim.

Examples of some common damages that may be secured through a California school sexual assault or abuse civil claim include:

  • Counseling or therapy expenses
  • Emotional trauma
  • Psychological distress
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital or medical expenses

Although children impacted by sexual abuse are currently eligible to file civil claims regardless of when a crime occurred, the statute of limitations is different for adult survivors of sexual violence. For adult sexual assault survivors, the California statute of limitations on sex crimes allows you to file a civil claim up to 10 years after an incident. Moreover, the statute of limitations allows for a three-year window in civil claims where sexual assaults lead to the discovery of a psychological injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

DLG is a leading California-based sexual assault firm representing survivors across the United States. DLG offers survivors a unique type of legal representation which includes a four-tiered team of professionals known as the SAJE Team.

Led by Sam Dordulian, DLG’s experienced school sexual assault lawyers have helped countless survivors secure maximum financial damages awards.

Some of our recent sexual assault civil lawsuit victories include:

For a free and confidential consultation regarding your school sexual assault or abuse civil claim, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 818-322-4056. Our school sex crime attorneys have helped victims recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record.


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