Former LHS teacher sentenced for sexually harassing female students
Orlando Benitez will serve 4 years in prison for texting sexually charged messages to female students
LINDSAY – By the time a former Lindsay High School teacher gets out of prison, he will have spent more time behind bars than the girls he harassed spent in high school.
On Aug. 29, Tulare County Superior Court Judge Anthony Fultz sentenced Orlando Benitez, 31, of Lindsay, to 4 years and 4 months in prison for stalking female students while employed as a teacher and coach at Lindsay High School. On June 18, Benitez pleaded no contest to three felony counts of stalking.
The crimes occurred between May 2015 and May 2018 against three minor females ages 14 to 17 at the time of the crimes. According to investigative reports, Benitez would text the females his sexually charged thoughts and would corner them at school when they would attempt to cease contact. During such requests, Benitez would threaten to harm himself and lay the blame on the victims. He would also become angry if he learned that the girls had relationships.
Russell Ernst, executive director of human resources for Lindsay Unified School District, said Benitez began working in the district at LHS on Aug. 1, 2014 and officially accepted his resignation on Dec. 31, 2018. Ernst said the district became aware of the incidents on May 17 and immediately contacted the Lindsay Police Department. Benitez was placed on administrative leave the next day and never returned to the high school again.
“The safety of our learners and staff is very important to us,” Ernst said. “We want to thank the Lindsay Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office for their action in this matter.”
Benitez did not possess a prior criminal record; however, in addition to his sentence, Benitez must register as a sex offender for life and will never work as a teacher again. Assembly Bill 872, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2018, requires school districts to immediately suspend teaching credentials for a registered sex offender, regardless of the offense, and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing is required to automatically deny or revoke the teacher’s credential.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Katie Denson of the Special Crimes Division and investigated by Officer Adriana Nave of the Lindsay Department of Public Safety and Criminal Investigators Martha Rodriguez and Jeff Gilbert of the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations.