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February 8, 2023

County Supervisor candidate Dutra faces sexual assault lawsuit

Man claims candidate molested him when he was a pre-teen

WATSONVILLE—A man has filed a civil lawsuit in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, claiming that 4th District Supervisorial candidate Jimmy Dutra molested him when he was 12.

A case management conference is scheduled for Feb. 3.

The Pajaronian typically does not name victims in stories involving allegations of sexual assault. But in this case, Stephen Siefke, now 29, has released a statement through his attorney Dana Scruggs.

In a prepared statement, Dutra denied the allegations.

“It is completely disappointing in today’s age of politics that people are reverting to such unbelievable and appalling tactics,” he stated. “These accusations are baseless and made solely to tarnish my reputation and campaign.”

Siefke says that his family was friends with Dutra’s when, in 2005, he went on a vacation to Southern California—where Dutra was living—to visit Disneyland.

On the night in question, Siefke says his parents had gone to sleep, and he was sleeping on an air mattress in the living room. Late that night, Dutra returned home with a friend and sat on a couch a short distance from the mattress. Dutra later joined Siefke on the mattress, according to the statement.

“He proceeded to unzip my pants, place his hands inside my underwear, and fondle me sexually,” Siefke wrote.

He says he was horrified and rolled over away from Dutra, who then left the mattress and returned to the couch.

Siefke says that he told nobody about the incident for years out of shame and embarrassment.

“It was not until I was in high school that I first disclosed to my mother what had happened,” he said.

Siefke says his parents reported the incident to law enforcement officials in the Los Angeles area. But he says he was too ashamed to speak with the police.

Siefke returned to Santa Cruz County within the past two years.

Siefke says he was motivated to come forward publicly when he learned Dutra was running for Supervisor, and was working as a middle school teacher with the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

He says he made the move to “both to heal myself, to protect other children from Jimmy Dutra, and to ensure that Jimmy is not elected to the Board of Supervisors.”

Dutra questions the timing of the lawsuit. Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins next week. 

“We have grown accustomed to this type of nasty behavior in national politics, but this takes politics to a whole new low in our local community,” he stated. “Let’s remember that how we campaign will determine how we govern, and I choose to run a clean positive campaign on the issues, not dirty politics. We put ourselves out there to serve our communities and I look forward to continuing to serve, which has always been my inspiration for running.”

Siefke deferred a request for comment to Scruggs, who said that his client does not support any political candidate and is not interested in the upcoming election.

“Stephen was very concerned when he came back to Santa Cruz in the last year or so, and realized what Mr. Dutra’s position was in the county as a former City Councilman,” Scruggs said. “There is no question that Mr. Dutra’s yard sign was a motivator for him to do something.”

In the lawsuit, filed on Oct. 5, Siefke is seeking punitive damages for the emotional distress he said was caused by the incident.

Scruggs did not say how much money Siefke is seeking, but said that seeking financial damages in cases like this is often the only way to hold perpetrators accountable.

Currently in his second stint on the Watsonville City Council, Dutra is regarded in local political circles as the front-runner for the 4th District seat in the upcoming election after receiving the lion’s share of the votes in the June 7 Primary—he fell a few percentage points from winning the seat outright. 

He is facing off against former Watsonville City Councilman Felipe Hernandez—currently a member of the Cabrillo College Governing Board—for the right to replace current supervisor Greg Caput, who earlier this year announced he would not seek his fourth term.

Dutra was first hired by the PVUSD to teach classes at Pajaro Middle School in 2019. He has since moved over to Lakeview Middle School, where he serves as a teacher in the after-school program.

Dutra first entered local politics in 2014. He ran unsuccessfully for 4th District Supervisor, but months after his defeat in the primary that year he was elected to the Watsonville City Council. 

He ran again for the Supervisor in 2018, but finished runner-up to Caput. 

He returned to the city council in 2020, and served as mayor in 2021.

He was the first candidate to announce his bid for the 4th District seat this year, and to this point had built a wide web of support that included three Watsonville City Council members—Rebecca Garcia, Francisco “Paco” Estrada and Eduardo Montesino—and Santa Cruz City Councilwoman and 3rd District Supervisorial candidate Shebreh Kalatari-Johnson.

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, as well as the local chapters of the California School Employees Association and Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union also endorsed him, as well as Annieglass owner Annie Morhauser and Chevrolet of Watsonville owner Melvin Cooper.

Dutra has raised $42,691 this calendar date with a majority of his contributions coming from retirees and local business owners. 

A notable $1,000 contribution was made to his campaign by the committee established to reelect State Senator Toni Atkins, the President pro tempore of the Senate since 2018.

20 COMMENTS

    • I don’t think so, Steve. The young man would face significant civil damages if he made this up, and it has nothing to do with LGBT.
      Jimmy Dutra should step down from the City Council, discontinue his campaign, and seek forgiveness and redemption.

    • Jesus
      Small towns like Watsonville get reputations for being corrupt for a reason. Yes now we know that the moron with the bullhorn is nothing more than a mouthpiece for guys like Dutra, Hurst, and the other clowns that are on the city council, county supervisors, and school boards sucking up tax dollars.
      His is their everyman (in this case I use the term man loosely) look at the tenacious defense of this guy by ST on this forum. I said it before and I will say it again shame on this newspaper for allowing this to continue so long. The discussion should be constructive not destructive. With all the verbal attacks ST makes on this forum, the Pajaronian should censor his posts because like Ron White said “you can’t fix stupid”
      WT

  1. Someone should ask Jimmy about a personal injury suit after hitting a pedestrian with his Ford F-150 truck in San Francisco and, according to the victim, leaving the scene back in 2010.
    James Michael Dutra’s attorneys fought the case, the judge found for the victim.
    Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco Case No. CGC 12 521593
    Bella Babchin Et Al v. James Michael Dutra Et Al

    • if this were the case, he would have been arrested. you cannot leave the scene of a personal injury when your car is involved.
      leaving the scene of a hit and run is a felony. he would have served time in jail. you cannot cover this stuff up when you apply for a teaching credential. the school district does an FBI check and investigation. I know. in achieving 4 teaching credentials over a period of 36 years, I went through such an investigation 4 times. if he had been put in jail for hit and run, he would not have received his teaching credential. I believe he has been teaching for 3 or 4 years now.
      and , unlike others who are posting here, you are hiding behind a silly pseudonym. your credibility is questionable.

  2. if this was reported to the police officials in the LA area, then there should be a record of it. CA state law states that fail to report to authorities by parents of a minor who was molested are guilty of a misdemeanor and a jail sentence of 6 months and a fine of $500. that has been state law for many year.
    where is the police report? this would have been on Jimmy’s record when he applied to get a CA teaching credential some years later. He would NOT have been able to get the credential. He would NOT have been able to be in the PVUSD classroom.
    I , too, had to apply for not just one, but 4 individual CA teaching credentials in different areas. If I had this on my record, not only would I NOT have gotten the credentials, i would have been pulled out of the classroom by police upon my application. my teaching career lasted from 1977-2013, all in CA. Some of that time I was at Rolling Hills Middle School in Watsonville.
    this does not make sense. there are just too many discrepancies here. any police jurisdiction would have to detain the individual accused . that , clearly did not happen.

  3. the plaintiff reportedly told his parent who reported it to police in the LA area. . if that were true, it would have been on Dutra’s record , for years now. it would have prevented Dutra from achieving a teaching credential in CA,. this is a major disrcrepancy. the California teaching credential commission does a thorough search of every candidate seeking a teaching credential in CA, they use the FBI to check nationwide for every applicant. so, this part of the plaintiff’s story is not credible. I am not a lawyer, but you do not have to be a lawyer to see that.

  4. I was at the city council meeting last night. the meeting proceeded with the pre published agend. Dutra welcomed the sister city from the Azores along with the counsel general from the embassy of Portugal, which i believe is in SF.
    one person mentioned the lawsuit at the podium. she was ruled out of order as the comments were about the pesticide issue . I carried my protest sign :” 1,3-D KILLS. BAN IT !”, along with a dozen others who held signs as well.
    so, if you were waiting for a mass condemnation of Dutra to happen, you were disappointed.

  5. FACTS:
    1. Dutra remains a member of the city council. he has not said he is resigning.
    2. he remains an employee of PVUSD. they have not dismissed him. he has not resigned. he has not indicated he is resigning.
    3. it is easy to say that all your friends corroborate this assault. written evidence ? email or text message proof? unless his friends are willing to state UNDER OATH in court that the plaintiff contacted them about this alleged incident, the story is far less credible.
    4. the timing of this CIVIL LAWSUIT , coming 4 weeks before election day, is also suspect . Jimmy has worked for PVUSD for at least 3 years. he has been elected twice to city council, going back to the last decade. more than enough opportunity for the plaintiff to file suit YEARS earlier. he has been an adult for some time.
    NO, i am not a lawyer, but I am an educator. i saw this happen in my 36 year career in public education. i was a teachers’union local official in a number of school districts where i was employed.

  6. Sounds like Steve tru is also a child molester. Never in my life have I ever met more of a victim blamer. Pathetic excuse for a human. I sure hope you don’t have kids….

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