Orange County's Victor James Wellen was a physical education teacher with daycare duties at a Christian school while simultaneously harboring a keen fetish for female panties.
To the young girls under Wellen's supervision, the combination proved criminal.
For six years beginning in 2004, the teacher committed lewd acts on minors at the school, according to a 2011 jury's verdicts that included kidnapping for the purpose of child molesting.
Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey sentenced Wellen to prison, but the defendant appealed his convictions to the California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana.
Wellen argued that he didn't kidnap one of the girls; he only carried the minor about 30 feet to the school's music room, refused to let her leave and molested her by pulling her pants down.
He also claimed that Orange County prosecutors should not have been allowed to introduce evidence recovered in a post-arrest raid: collected pictures and video of young girls in panties.
The government also frustrated Wellen by telling jurors about his Internet search terms: “girl strip,” “pranks and pants,” “girl caught undressing” and “truth or dare.”
A three-justice appellate panel consider the arguments and this month rejected them.
The court ruled that carrying the girl from other kids sufficiently satisfied the kidnapping requirement and they determined that the Internet information “logically” supported the prosecution's charges without being inflammatory.
“The computer evidence was not intended to prove [Wellen] was attracted to young girls,” the opinion states. “Instead, it was used to show he had a fetish for female garments and 'pantsing' . . . The broader implication of the computer evidence was that it demonstrated he 'likes to watch pants coming off, and that he likes to look at underwear, that he's focused on that specifically.'”
Upshot: Wellen, 28, will continue to serve his seven-year prison sentence inside Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe.