Ticking time bomb or victim? Chico State professor's restraining order case goes to the judge
Calling suspended Chico State biology professor David Stachura “a ticking time bomb who could go off at any minute,” a deputy state attorney general implored a Butte County judge on Friday to issue a workplace violence restraining order that would bar him from campus for three years.
Stachura’s lawyer though told the judge the state had failed to prove his client is a violent threat to the university and his coworkers. The professor, he said, is the victim of his angry estranged wife who he said has lied about his client. He said Stachura is a highly successful and dedicated academic and urged that the request for the restraining order be rejected.
After hearing closing statements that seemed to paint pictures of two very different people, Judge Virginia Gingery said she would make a written ruling within 90 days. She also ordered that a temporary restraining order in place against Stachura since February remain in effect until her final order is issued.
The arguments ended a bifurcated hearing that began in April as part of the fallout of revelations made public last year that Stachura had a prohibited sexual affair with a student in 2020 and allegedly threatened to kill two professors who cooperated in a university investigation of the matter.
EdSource reported on Dec. 8 that the investigation found that Stachura and the student had sex in his office that could be heard through the walls. Stachura agreed to a settlement of the matter that included a suspension without pay for a third of the 2021 spring semester. He has repeatedly denied the 2020 affair but has admitted he is currently romantically involved with the now-former student.
As the sex investigation unfolded in 2020, Stachura allegedly told his estranged wife, Miranda King, that he’d bought weapons and ammunition – including hollow-point bullets, with the intention of killing two professors, Emily Fleming and Kristen Gorman, who cooperated in the investigation.
King revealed the alleged threats in an application for a domestic-violence restraining order in the midst of a deeply contentious divorce. King’s lawyer alerted Fleming and Gorman.
A biology lecturer, Betsey Tamietti, revealed that Stachura allegedly spoke to her about committing gun violence in the biology department. At a Dec. 12 campuswide meeting, Tamietti quoted Stachura as telling her, “If I wanted you guys dead, you’d be dead. I am a doer. If I do go on a shooting spree, maybe I’ll pass your office. I am not sure.”
Stachura, in both the divorce case and the current case, has claimed he told King that he had a nightmare about killing his colleagues and had no intention of acting violently. He has repeatedly said Tamietti is lying because he ended a friendship with her when she didn’t support him after King revealed the alleged threats
He is suing both King and Tamietti for libel.
Gorman, Fleming, Tamietti and a graduate student, Jackelin Villalobos, are named parties to the restraining order. All testified of a deep fear of the suspended professor.
Stachura testified for a second time in the case Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Much of it centered on Tamietti, with whom he said he had “a really weird relationship.”
He testified that after the date she claimed he threatened a shooting in the biology department in November 2021, she continued to email and text him even after he sent her “a dear John email” ending their friendship. Her contacts with him, he claimed, showed the alleged threat was fabricated.
But Tamietti testified last month that she felt safer by staying in communication with Stachura, a point Deputy Attorney General Shanna McDaniel reiterated in her closing statement.
Stachura’s lawyer, Kasra Parsad, said the women named in the restraining order are “afraid of (Stachura) based on some article. I don’t believe that for the last three years, they have been terrified of him.”
Parsad also told Gingery that a three-year restraining order would ruin Stachura’s career. “He has worked very hard in his career, and I don’t think any university would hire him (with a workplace violence restraining order) on his record.”
McDaniel told the judge that Stachura “expects you to believe he is the victim.”
“He has a pattern of threatening women,” she said.
The order, she said, would help protect the four women and “the lives of innocent students and faculty” who could be killed if Stachura turned violent on campus.
Making threats of a workplace shooting in 2022 America is the “equivalent of using the word ‘bomb’ on an airplane,” McDaniel said. The judge, she said, has no choice but to act on it.
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.