Clovis teacher sexual abuse case nears deal

FRESNO, Calif.

Elementary school teacher Neng Yang came to court Thursday for the first time since February of last year, when he entered a not guilty plea to 45 counts of child molestation.

The last time Neng Yang appeared in a Fresno County courtroom, he got threats from other inmates. Since then, a judge has allowed the accused child molester to skip his court appearances for his own safety.

"These kinds of charges are offensive to the other inmates," said ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "His life is in danger while he's in custody."

Clovis investigators say Yang locked his classroom door, blindfolded a student, and tricked her into playing a sexual game with him.

His arrest in January 2012 came after a parent came to suspect trouble. It also prompted changes at Clovis schools, like windows in classroom doors.

Yang was charged with federal crimes as well as state charges, but the cases stalled for more than a year. But this week, federal attorneys announced they're close to resolving the case. And Yang physically appeared in the county courthouse, in a different courtroom than the one where inmates threatened him.

"He's taken to a trial court which would give the impression that it's going to be set for a trial, a jury trial, or it's going to be a plea, a resolution of the case," said Capozzi.

Attorneys are still working out details of the plea deal. The biggest hurdle could be in which court he gets punished first.

If it's in the county court, he'll spend more time in prison. But Capozzi says it may be a moot point. Yang will be 45 years old when he receives his sentence.

"It's going to be substantial," Capozzi said. "If it's not an actual life sentence, it'll be awfully close to a life sentence."

The victim and her family have left the Central Valley after receiving a seven-figure settlement from the Clovis Unified School District. Their attorney tells Action News they're trying to move on, but they will monitor the punishment.

"Their hope is that he never gets out of jail," said Warren Paboojian. "If there's any chance of parole, [the sentence] is not long enough."

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