University City High School Teacher Who Allegedly Sought Sex From Teen to Remain in Custody Without Bail

Courtroom gavel
A courtroom gavel. File photo

A University City High School science teacher and cross-country coach accused of trying to meet up with a teenage girl for sex will remain in custody without bail, a judge ordered Tuesday.

Sean Stevenson, 58, was arrested last week on allegations of seeking to pay $140 for sex acts with a person he believed was a 16-year-old girl.

According to a complaint filed in San Diego federal court, Stevenson exchanged text messages with an undercover law enforcement officer who claimed to be a woman sexually trafficking her 16-year-old cousin.

When Stevenson arrived at an undisclosed location on El Cajon Boulevard in the Talmadge neighborhood to meet with the girl last Tuesday morning, he was arrested, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Officers found $140 inside his vehicle and his phone number matched the number that had been communicating with the undercover officer, according to a the complaint.

Federal prosecutors have charged him with attempted enticement of a minor, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Stevenson’s defense attorney, Dana Grimes, argued in court Tuesday for bond to be set at $500,000, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Sherwood argued to keep Stevenson detained without bail.

The prosecutor argued that in addition to the already publicly released allegations of trying to meet with a teenage girl, investigators searched Stevenson’s home and found electronic devices containing child sex abuse materials, including images and videos.

Sherwood also said Stevenson was “prolific in his attempts to buy kids for sex,” and referenced other alleged communications between Stevenson and sex workers, in which he allegedly attempted to arrange for sex with minors.

“The more we’ve investigated this, the more crimes we’ve discovered,” said Sherwood, who called the evidence in the case “overwhelming.”

The prosecutor also argued Stevenson was a flight risk due to the amount of prison time he is facing, as well as his potentially diminishing ties to the San Diego community and his profession over the allegations.

A San Diego Unified School District spokeswoman said Tuesday that Stevenson is on leave from his job at University City High School.

Grimes said Stevenson is a long-time San Diego resident who lacks ties elsewhere in the world and could surrender his passport if the court was concerned about flight from the United States. The defense attorney assured that he would follow any release conditions set by the court, including electronic monitoring, stay-away orders, and home detention.

Grimes also said that despite the prosecution’s assertions that Stevenson was a danger to children, there was no evidence presented regarding any actual sexual abuse of minors, including his students.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Chu ultimately ruled that he was “concerned by the nature and seriousness of the charges” and ordered Stevenson to remain in custody.

According to the complaint, the investigation into Stevenson began with the arrests of a pimp and prostitute in April.

After searching the prostitute’s cell phone, investigators found text messages between her and a San Diego-area phone number prosecutors allege belongs to Stevenson.

The complaint states the user of the San Diego cell number was offering the woman “a finder’s fee payment … if she could provide him with an underage prostitute.”

An undercover officer posed as the prostitute and began messaging the San Diego cell user earlier this month.

In one text exchange, the San Diego cell user asks, “Do you still have a younger girl?”

The undercover officer answered with “Ya, my cousin I was telling u about” and confirmed to the texter that the girl is 16. The San Diego cell user stated, “Ok, I’m very interested,” according to the complaint.