Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Joseph Lodge elected Wednesday not to double the bail of Bruce Nelson as requested by Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley. Nelson’s bail will instead remain at $500,000.
Nelson, a former care worker at Solutions Rehabilitation Center, is out on bail and facing a total of seven sexual assault charges in connection with his time at Solutions. Two separate victims have alleged misconduct by Nelson, which, if he is found guilty, could land the Santa Barbara High assistant boys basketball coach a 175-year sentence.
Dudley attempted to raise bail to $1 million, arguing Nelson was a danger to society, but Lodge saw things differently. He came to the conclusion after hearing testimony from Nelson’s wife and a Santa Barbara High girls basketball player who said that Nelson was helping her with collegiate athletic scholarships.
Dudley said three police reports in 1996, 1998 and 2001 detailed allegations of domestic violence from Nelson’s wife, Roberta Cordero-Nelson, but no charges were ever brought on the man. Cordero-Nelson testified that she couldn’t remember much from any of the incidents, and that, despite the fact they’d been separated since 2001, he was a “great person.” Despite having custody of the couple’s son, a stand-out basketball player at Santa Barbara High, Cordero-Nelson let the boy live with his father.
They weren’t separated because of sexual misconduct by Nelson, Cordero-Nelson testified. She also told the court Nelson was currently employed by the Braille Institute of Santa Barbara. Later, when defense attorney Steve Balash had Nelson’s supporters in the audience – about 12 total – stand up as a showing of his involvement the community, an elderly student of Nelson’s, Ruth Renihan, also stood up. The support, coupled with the length of time he’s lived in Santa Barbara – more than 30 years – and his involvement in his son’s athletics, were enough for Lodge to decide Nelson wasn’t a threat to skip town.
Earlier, Dudley had submitted a motion to add two new counts, to which Nelson, through Balash, pleaded not guilty. The two new counts were added to the already five existing counts.
A preliminary hearing date has been set for Nov. 9 in front of Lodge.