Former assistant principal sentenced to prison for sexual relationship with student

Posted at 11:22 AM, Nov 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-10 21:44:10-05

SAN DIEGO - A former administrator at a school for troubled youths has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in state prison for initiating a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student with drug problems.

Kettrell Berry, who worked at the San Diego Center for Children, was convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse and committing lewd acts on a child.

The victim -- who turned 16 during her relationship with Berry -- testified that she established a bond with the defendant soon after arriving at the school in December 2011. She said Berry -- an assistant principal -- would counsel her, meet her after school and listen to her problems. She said she and Berry began hugging at the end of meetings and the relationship turned sexual.

Berry was fired after working at the school for nine years.

During the investigation of the case, authorities found that in 2003, a 12-year-old girl had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Berry. Now an adult, she testified at trial about what the defendant did to her, said Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo.

"There were nights I was peeing myself because he worked overnight shifts and I didn't want him to come near me," she testified. "I tried to do anything to avoid him or having contact with him. I didn't feel comfortable at all."

"These staff go through background checks and all these fingerprints. And they're supposed to be good people you can trust with children in these homes," she said. "These are the people responsible for watching over them and I feel that some people are not the best candidates. He was somebody who was trusted to watch over us and make sure we were safe, and he put me in an unsafe environment and did things to me that made me feel vulnerable. It still messes with me to this day."

Another 18-year-old woman testified that she began dating Berry about six months after she left the school. The woman -- who was addicted to drugs -- said Berry preyed upon her, manipulated her, and within seven months she was pregnant with his child. Palermo said the woman was 19 years old by the time she had the baby.

"It wasn't illegal," given the woman's age when the relationship started, "but it shows his course of conduct in using the school essentially as a fishing pond for his dating escapades with these children who are at-risk and troubled," the prosecutor said after the verdict.