Tulare DA: Army National Guard member molested student in classroom, car

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Three days after his arrest, 40-year-old James Van Norton faced a judge for the first time.

Tuesday, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office charged the former Porterville Military Academy instructor and member of the California Army National Guard with 28 felony counts, including lewd acts upon a child and unlawful sexual intercourse.

Van Norton is accused of molesting a 14-year-old cadet he met while working at the academy multiple times.

The crimes are alleged to have happened between August of last year up until late last week.

The complaint reveals that some of the alleged sex crimes happened in a classroom, while others happened in a car.

After his arrest was announced on Monday, Porterville Unified School District said Van Norton had not been on campus for several months and that they are cooperating fully with law enforcement as the investigation continues.

"The California Army National Guard is fully cooperating with local law enforcement as they proceed with their investigation," said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan M. Shiroma. "As this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

Shiroma says Van Norton, a staff sergeant truck driver with the 1114th Transportation Company based in Bakersfield, has been with the Army National Guard since January of 2000.

But right now, they say he is on administrative leave pending the outcome of what they say is an ongoing inquiry with Porterville Military Academy.

Van Norton will be back in court on April 3. He faces more than 13 years in prison if convicted.

Norton is being held at the pre-trial facility on $2.5 million bail.
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