Ex-East Aurora teacher questions accusers' motives, immigration statuses

A former East Aurora District 131 substitute teacher accused of sexually assaulting and abusing two students in 2014, 2016 and 2017 wants a judge to order his accusers and their guardians to turn over documents relating to their immigration statuses, suggesting they could be lying to stay in the country.

Juan Avendano, 63, of Aurora was charged in March 2018 with sexually assaulting two Bardwell Elementary School kindergarten students.

In court papers filed in late April, Avendano's defense attorneys argue that immigrants living in the country illegally and who are victims of sex crimes can be granted special visas to stay in the United States and that may be motive for them to lie.

"Those who have information about, helped, are helping, or would help law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of sexual assault crimes are also eligible for U visas," wrote defense attorney Gal Pissetzky.

"These individuals' immigration status are material to Mr. Avendano's defense and are relevant to determine the credibility of the witnesses. If the complaining witnesses and their guardians resided in the United States illegally, becoming 'a victim of a crime' would give them a path to lawful residence and thus gives them reason to fabricate these allegations."

Kane County Judge Kathryn Karayannis will hear arguments June 21.

Avendano is accused of sexually assaulting and abusing one student from January 2014 through Nov. 25, 2014, and a second from January 2016 through Dec. 31, 2017, according to court records.

If convicted on all counts, he faces 31 years to life in prison. He is free on bail.

Avendano's attorneys also argue that charges stemming from the two accusers should be separated, saying including all testimony in one trial would "unduly prejudice" a jury against him.

"The state has not claimed that Mr. Avendano acted in a single, overarching goal in allegedly committing separate offenses," his attorneys wrote.

The first accuser's family sued the school district and Avendano in late 2018. Last month, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the second child, arguing school officials knew of his "dangerous and exploitative propensities as a sexual abuser," were told of Avendano's actions and failed to notify the Department of Children and Family Services as required by law.

The district and school officials "failed to conduct an investigation of Avendano, monitor him, suspend him, and/or terminate his employment," according to the suit, which seeks more than $1 million in damage.

Tom Jackson, a District 131 spokesman, said last fall that district does not comment on pending litigation.

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