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Restraining order in Chico State threat case 'warranted, necessary and justified,' judge rules

David Stauchra
David Stauchra

Suspended Chico State biology professor David Stachura “made a credible threat of violence” against two colleagues who cooperated in an investigation that found he had a sexual affair with a student, a judge found in a tentative ruling released Friday that orders him to stay off campus for three years.

Protection of “the entire Chico State community is warranted given the nature of the threats and the events that have transpired,” Judge Virginia Gingery wrote in a 13-page decision that, when made final, will grant the university a workplace violence restraining order against Stachura, who witnesses said threatened a mass shooting on campus.

In addition to professors Emily Fleming and Kristen Gorman, Gingery also extended protection to biology lecturer Betsey Tamietti, graduate student Jackelin Villalobos and members of Fleming’s and Tamietti’s families. The judge also banned Stachura from owning firearms for three years.

Stachura’s arguments against the order were “unavailing,” Gingery wrote, including his claims that Chico State sought the order based only in reaction to news stories about the threats.

The restraining order is “warranted, necessary and justified based on (Stachura’s)” conduct the judge wrote.

Orders first identified as tentative such as the one Gingery released Friday are all but certain to be made final under California court rules. The Butte County Superior Court’s website did not list a hearing date Friday where that would happen.

Stachuara’s lawyer, Kasra Parsad, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did Chico State officials.

Parsad told the judge during a hearing in July that if the restraining order were granted it would likely destroy Stachura’s academic career. He is an expert in fish biology, specializing in zebrafish and stem-cell research.

The ruling comes following a two-part 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 the 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 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.

The revelations roiled the 13,000-student campus in the northern Sierra foothills, resulting in several mass meetings and calls for Stachura’s removal. Provost Debra Larson, who signed off on the settlement in the sex case, resigned within days. The school also revoked an “outstanding professor” award it gave Stachura for the 2020-21 academic year.

But it was the gun threats — at a time when the country is plagued with mass shootings in schools and elsewhere — that caused both students and faculty to express deep fears.

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 Fleming and Gorman.

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, 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.

Stachura sued both King and Tamietti for libel. But the case against Tamietti was dismissed when another judge ruled in June that her statement at the meeting was a matter of public interest. Court records show Stachura dropped his suit against King last month. Their divorce case remains ongoing.

Gorman, Fleming, Tamietti and Villalobos all testified of a deep fear of Stachura.

Stachura testified twice. Much of his testimony 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 threat was fabricated.

But Tamietti testified in July 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 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 order restraining him from stepping foot on campus 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.”

It was not immediately clear Friday what action the university will now take. Court records show it opened another investigation of Stachura in March that focuses, in part, on whether he was dishonest during the investigation of his affair with the then-student.

Gingery seemed to key on Stachura’s repeated denials of the affair as undermining his credibility. She noted that in testimony, he had even claimed the investigation of the affair “came back negative” despite the fact that an investigator found the affair occurred and Stachura entered into a settlement with the university that resulted in his pay being temporarily reduced as discipline.

Michael Weber of the Chico Enterprise-Record contributed to this story.

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Thomas Peele is an investigative reporter at EdSource. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter.
EdSource believes that access to a quality education is an important right of all children. We further believe that an informed, involved public is necessary to strengthen California’s schools for the benefit of the state’s children, its civic life, and its economy.