Peter Jeschke, the former assistant girl’s tennis coach at Santa Barbara High School accused of the statutory rape of a 16-year-old girl on his team, has had his trial date pushed back as a result of his decision to switch attorneys. Allen Bifano, who represented Jeschke through preliminary hearing and up until a few weeks ago, said the decision to switch to Los Angeles-based attorney Lara Yeretsian was mutual.
“I hope he wins,” Bifano said. “I did everything I could for him. It makes sense sometimes for one person to set it up and another person to knock it down.” Yeretsian comes from the law offices of Geragos & Geragos, led by Mark Geragos, who has represented high-profile clients such as actress Winona Ryder, pop star Michael Jackson, and convicted murderer Scott Peterson. Yeretsian appeared a few times on Peterson’s behalf, and also represented 2004-2005 UCSB Associated Students President Cervin Morris in a case of alleged felony assault with a deadly weapon and one misdemeanor count of battery.
The number of charges against Jeschke is now down to 17, after one charge of driving on a suspended license – a misdemeanor – was dropped. Jeschke still faces charges of furnishing drugs and alcohol to minors, as well as having sexual intercourse and oral copulation with a minor. He is accused of giving cocaine, ecstasy, and alcohol to minors on the tennis squad.
Yeretsian explained to the court she needed a continuance of the trial to give her time to get up to speed on the evidence and circumstances of the case, and because she a trial scheduled to begin at the end of September. She also had a scheduled vacation for the first three weeks of September, she said.
Prosecutor Joyce Dudley, citing codes that say victims have a right to have a trial occur within 30 days of arraignment, asked the court to expedite the process in consideration of the nine high school students waiting to testify. She estimated the trial will take three weeks, including jury selection and witness testimony. However, Judge Frank Ochoa continued the case to October 6.
Also on Monday, Ochoa told Jeschke to have no contact with witnesses in the case, and no contact with minors not related to him, after Dudley indicated he was seen at a tennis match talking to one of the witnesses in the case.