Thursday, April 5, 2007

Joao Pierini Sentenced to one year in jail

By Michelle Durand

A Brazilian martial arts champion and instructor accused of giving inappropriate massages to four boys, including three students, was sentenced to a year in jail and must enter a sex offender treatment program.

Joao Pierini, 35, receives credit for 135 days against his year sentence and must spend three years on supervised probation. Judge Jack Grandsaert also ordered Pierini to register as a sex offender and enter treatment.

Neither the victims nor their families spoke during the sentencing hearing.

Pierini faced up to two years prison under the terms of a plea bargain he accepted in March. Pierini pleaded no contest to one felony and three misdemeanors counts of child molestation in return for the lower sentence and the dropping of five other misdemeanor charges. If convicted of those, he faced up to five years in prison.

On Dec. 15, four boys ages 15 to 17 allegedly ran into Pierini at a local Starbucks coffee shop and he invited them back to his studio, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 2830 N. Cabrillo Highway in Half Moon Bay, where he also lives. Pierini reportedly gave the boys his keys, told them to put their beer in the refrigerator and said he’d meet them there.

As they drank beer, Pierini offered the boys massages. The first victim later reported Pierini massaged his genital area until he got up and rejoined his friends without sharing what had happened. The next day, he asked the other boys if they had a similar experience and they agreed. The boys told the first victim’s father and they reported the situation to the Half Moon Bay police.

Pierini is a 25-year jiu jitsu veteran with a third-degree black belt, according to the biography posted on his workplace Web site. Pierini moved to the United States from Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1999 and opened the Half Moon Bay school with Jim Irizarry. The two also created the Joao Pierini Association and a competition known as the California Open International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Submission Grappling Championships. According to the Ultimate Fighting Championship Web site, in 2002 Pierini fought under the moniker “The Tasmanian Devil.”

After Pierini accepted the negotiated plea, prosecutors turned their eye toward the Half Moon Bay police officer involved in the case. The officer reportedly did not fully respond to the initial allegation properly although authorities are remaining mum on the exact details. The District Attorney’s Office is winding down its investigation and expects to either file charges or return the case to the department for internal handling soon. The officer is currently on paid administrative leave.


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