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Posted: 07/16/14

Robert Yaek, left, with attorney Paul Stablein.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Former teacher bound
over to circuit court

Observer Staff Writer
      Charges of sexual misconduct against a former Armada Middle School teacher have been bound over to circuit court.
       Six out of seven charges against Robert Yaek, 25, of Richmond will head to the Macomb County Circuit Court following a preliminary exam held July 8 at the 42-1 District Court. His next court date will be July 21.
       Yaek is accused of having sexual relations with a 13-year-old female student between February and May. He is pleading not-guilty to two charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, each of which carries a life sentence.
       He is also charged with distributing sexually explicit matter to children, a two-year felony; two counts of using a computer to commit a crime, a four-year felony; and one count of possession of child sexually abusive material, a four-year felony.
       Investigations began May 13 when a whistle-blower alerted school administrators of the allegations. He was removed from the classroom and subsequently resigned from the Armada Area Schools on May 15.
       He was an eighth-grade science teacher and staff member for three years.
       In hearing testimony from the complainant, Judge Denis LeDuc cleared out the courtroom so that only necessary personnel were present.
       Yaek originally had three counts of criminal sexual conduct, but one was dropped following the complainant's testimony. Assistant Macomb Prosecutor Brian Surma said when interviewed by law enforcement officials, her statements had included claims of having sex with Yaek.
       "Essentially, what she testified to at the exam was she did not have sexual intercourse with Mr. Yaek," he said. "She testified that she didn't want him to get in trouble and basically recanted parts of her testimony from before."
       He said she did state that they exchanged oral sex one time, so the criminal sexual conduct charges were amended to reflect this. The charges still carry the same penalties.
       "I'm confident that the case is charged correctly and I'm confident of our chances to secure a conviction as charged," he said. "Testimony changing from a child witness is not unexpected or unanticipated."
       Paul Stablein, Yaek's attorney, said the testimony was beneficial to his client's case, adding it matches the initial story the complainant gave when she was interviewed at the Care House, a shelter for child victims of sexual and physical abuse.
       "It's an intimidating situation when you're a 13-year-old girl and you sit down with a detective and prosecutor," he said. "My position is she told them what they wanted to hear so she could get out of there."
       Surma said the charges of distributing sexually explicit material to a child and using a computer to commit a crime were bound over.
       He said a piece of evidence was also bound over. The evidence was an email from Yaek to the complainant that showed a man masturbating and ejaculating, and contained the phrase "this is what happens when I think of you."
       "The case is not based simply on the testimony of the child," he said. "There is other evidence to support what she stated."
       The defense waived its right to a preliminary exam on the charges of possession of child sexually abusive material and using a computer to commit that crime. Surma said these charges were based on a photo of the complainant found on Yaek's cell phone.
       Stablein said he wants to wait until he receives the transcript of the preliminary exam before deciding on how his defense will proceed.
       Stablein asked that Yaek's bond be reduced, telling LeDuc that Yaek is not a flight risk. LeDuc denied the request, keeping it at $400,000 cash or surety.
       "Even though he has been in contact with the police since this began, he voluntarily turned himself in, he resided in Richmond his whole life . . . he (LeDuc) still wouldn't reduce the bond," he said.
       Yaek is still detained at Macomb County Jail.

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