63-year-old Michael Shoop’s living nightmare began 10 years ago, when he was arrested on child pornography charges and then sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison. His defense? The images showed up on his computer after he did a search on the Internet for recipes to make an asparagus dish. What does asparagus have to do with child pornography? Evidently, the word is a slang term for a young boy’s genitals. So, Shoop was convicted of the charges, served his term, and made a deal with the authorities – he would register as a sex offender and give up his 25-year long teaching career. That should have been the end of the story.
However, recently Shoop asked for state and federal law enforcement officials to issue a statement of rehabilitation, which requires a lengthy investigation into a person’s life. During the inquiry, officials found that a former Mission Valley Elementary School student, a second-grader at the time, claims to have been sodomized and molested by Shoop over 15 years ago in one of the butler-style buildings used as classrooms at the time. Shoop was arrested and is currently being held in a Santa Rita jail in lieu of over $400,000 in bail on four counts of sodomy and child molestation (CA Penal Code §288).
One has to wonder how a well-respected elementary school teacher goes from looking up recipes to being accused of child molestation – 15 years after the supposed incident. Shoop would certainly argue that these are false allegations and that he has been wrongfully arrested – although it is sure that he regrets asking for the determination of rehabilitation. If the child pornography, the original charges that began this ‘witch hunt,’ were downloaded onto his computer by accident, then Shoop’s nightmare should be terrifying – it means that this might happen to just about anyone.