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Prosecutor: Salinas teacher PhotoShopped porn to include students’ images

Salinas- Prosecutors say child pornography found on the computer of a Salinas elementary school teacher contained the “morphed” faces of some of his students.

Prosecutor Gary Thelander said accused child molester John Hawthorne, of Soquel, used Photoshop software to cut and paste digital photos of female students onto pornographic images he downloaded from the Internet.

Judge Lydia Villarreal increased Hawthorne’s bail Tuesday to $2 million based on the new revelations, which were contained in a motion by Thelander.

Hawthorne is charged with 15 felony counts and three misdemeanor counts of child molestation, as well as 20 felony counts of possessing child pornography.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison for multiple life terms.

The motion also revealed that some of the 13 students Hawthorne allegedly molested since 2003 were from Virginia Rocca Barton Elementary School in Monterey County. The 42-year-old taught there before he moved to Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, where he taught a class of fourth- through sixth-grade “newcomers” to the school.

One student told investigators that Hawthorne once tried to convince her to accompany him to his Soquel home “with the promise of better grades and the threat of retaliation when his entreaty was met with rejection,” Thelander said.

Both schools are in the Alisal Union School District, which has placed Hawthorne on unpaid leave. Superintendent Ruben Pulido could not be reached to comment Tuesday.

Hawthorne was arrested in April after four students at King Academy told a counselor their teacher had touched them inappropriately. The other alleged victims were identified during the subsequent investigation.

It was also during that time that investigators reviewed the contents of a computer and thumb drive seized at the time of Hawthorne’s arrest. According to Thelander, they found thousands of pornographic images of prepubescent girls.

In some of the images, he said, the girls are dressed but situated in sexually provocative poses. Others, he said, showed nude images of “clearly” underage girls, some engaged in sexual poses or activities, either alone or with other children.

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