By Joe Nelson | jnelson@scng.com and Scott Schwebke | sschwebke@scng.com | San Bernardino Sun
Published: July 27, 2018 at 10:22 am | Updated: July 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

Pornographic images of an underage Redlands High School student, seized from teacher Kevin Kirkland, were never examined by police before prosecutors negotiated a plea deal that allowed him to go free the day he was sentenced for sexually abusing four students, the Southern California News Group has learned.

The evidence — 16 images of one of Kirkland’s victims and another 169 images of him nude — was extracted from the former teacher’s cellphone and computer tablet. It was examined by San Bernardino County sheriff’s crime analysts and turned over to the Redlands Police Department.

But once there, the materials were checked into a police evidence room and sat for months — never to be reviewed by Redlands detectives for possible additional charges against the special education teacher and golf coach.

“They seized his electronic devices. They issued search warrants. They took his computer, his phone, his tablet — they took it all,” said Irvine attorney Morgan Stewart, who is representing some of Kirkland’s victims in civil suits against the Redlands Unified School District. “They had (the evidence) for months. They just didn’t do anything about it.

“No one ever looked at the evidence,” Stewart said. “I was so mad.”

Stewart’s firm has been embroiled in litigation with the Redlands Unified School District since 2014, when it sued on behalf of a victim of former Citrus Valley High School teacher Laura Whitehurst, whose child she bore. It resulted in a $6 million settlement in August 2016. Stewart accused the district of obstructing the police investigation, destroying evidence, and failing to report Whitehurst to police despite repeated complaints and suspicions about her dating back more than six years.

The latest revelations about the Kirkland case were contained in more than 2,000 pages of police reports, affidavits and depositions obtained by the Southern California News Group regarding sex abuse and alleged lewd conduct by Redlands Unified School District faculty spanning more than two decades.

‘Dropped the ball’

The Redlands Police Department acknowledges it dropped the ball on the Kirkland evidence, not finding it until Stewart demanded it as part of his case preparation.

“Morgan Stewart is correct that this evidence had been overlooked until it was discovered as a result of (his) subpoena,” Police Department spokesman Carl Baker said in an email.
Redlands police have acknowledged they failed to analyze teen pornography or turn over to prosecutors the pictures found on electronic devices belonging to teacher Kevin Kirkland, who was convicted of sexually abusing four female students. (Staff file photo by Rick Sforza, Redlands Daily Facts/SCNG)

The problem, Baker explained, was that the lead detective on the case — Kelli Bishop — was out on medical leave at the time.

It was Bishop who largely put together the case against Kirkland, discovering multiple instances of suspected sexual abuse and inappropriate conduct dating back to 2004, when he was a vice principal at Clement Middle School in Redlands.

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