Dozens of friends and family members filled a Palo Alto courtroom last week for Pedro Carbajal's scheduled plea bargain, comforting his wife and exchanging laughs and tears as the local soccer coach and community leader -- arrested on charges of child molestation -- appeared in handcuffs and a prison uniform.
Two days later, on Friday of last week, many of those same friends and neighbors gathered at the Community Center at Rengstorff Park, where Carbajal coached his free soccer teams twice a week. The meeting was private, but some of the 50 participants said they set up a bank account to help support the family while Carbajal is in prison.
Some who knew Carbajal said they are still coming to grips with the arrest, but are focusing on supporting Carbajal's wife and five children, who range in age from 3 to 12. Carbajal, who worked as a chef at the Palo Alto law firm Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, supported his family financially. His wife, Gloria Reyes, is a part-time preschool teacher at Castro Elementary School.
"We are focusing on the family and friends and how we can go forward with this devastating matter," said Marilu Delgado, who volunteered with Carbajal in Community Acting Together, or CAT, a grassroots organization in the Castro neighborhood.
Currently, Delgado and Ellen Wheeler, a Mountain View Whisman School District trustee and lawyer, are helping Reyes navigate the legal system. Standing outside the Palo Alto courthouse with Reyes after last week's court hearing, Wheeler stated that "we do not know" whether Carbajal is innocent or guilty.
"What we do know," she said, "is this family needs support. This is going to be a long process and they need help for a long time."
Public defender Ross McMahon was assigned to Carbajal's case during the March 11 hearing, and immediately requested more time to run his own investigation. Judge Douglas Southard postponed the plea bargain until May 6. Carbajal's bail is currently set a $2 million.
As a bailiff escorted Carbajal to the elevator, friends and family members waited in the hall to exchange one last glance.
"The family was always generous in the community," said Delgado, a Los Altos resident. "It is very hard. There aren't words for what we are feeling."
Police arrested Carbajal on Friday, Feb. 27 on three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with children under age 14 and one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Police say the victims are all sisters and members of Carbajal's extended family, and that most of the incidents occurred at family events when Carbajal would leave with the girls.
The alleged crimes happened between three and 10 years ago. The girls told police that they kept the incidents a secret because they did not want to hurt their family or get in trouble. The youngest victim confided in an adult after getting in trouble at school. She said she was acting out at school because she was angry, according to the police report.
Carbajal ran a free soccer league in Mountain View, called the Amigos Soccer League, to keep boys away from gangs.
"He has been an upstanding member of the community," McMahon said of Carbajal after his court appearance. "He has a lot of support from the community."
Money can be donated to the family through:
The Reyes Family Children Fund
Heritage Bank of Commerce
175 East El Camino Real
Mountain View, CA 94040