AP NEWS

Protective order issued against former Redding school board chair

December 14, 2017 GMT

DANBURY — Former Redding Board of Education chairwoman Sara Sobel wept in court Thursday as she was ordered not to have any contact with a purported sexual assault victim.

Sobel and her husband, Jon, were arrested in April on risk of injury to a minor charges for failing to comply with a state Department of Children and Families investigation, according to authorities.

Judge Thomas Welsh entered protection orders Thursday preventing the couple from having contact with the victim.

The case took a turn this summer when Sara Sobel, who also served as a member of the Redding Democratic Town Committee and a member of the Region 9 Board of Education, was levied with additional felony charges, including conspiracy to commit first-degree sexual assault.

“This is not the same case we had earlier this year,” Assistant State’s Attorney Sharmese Hodge told the judge Thursday. “The details are now very different — 180 degrees different — than when police first began investigating this case.”

Earlier this year, police said the Sobels were charged for failing to comply with requests from DCF in relation to the investigation against Stephen Overby, a man who Sara Sobel has described as a close personal friend, according to court documents. The documents show he lived with the couple for several months during the fall of 2016.

The victim told police about several instances of inappropriate contact over the past three years and of being forced to watch pornography with Overby, records show. The charges against Overby are pending.

While an attorney representing Jon Sobel said there was no need for immediate action on the requested protection order Thursday, the prosecutor disagreed.

Hodge said Sobel is a high-ranking member of a local synagogue where he has access to children in the community. “That is a big concern for the state,” Hodge said.

According to the website for the Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, Jon Sobel serves as the Cantor there. But officials with the temple told The News-Times Thursday that Sobel is no longer a member of the synagogue.

Hodge also said Sobel showed “an inability to draw appropriate boundaries and behaviors” when he was visiting the victim in the past.

The initial investigation began in January when Jon Sobel contacted Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs about the possibility of sexual assault on a minor, court documents state. Jon Sobel had previously served as a chaplain for the police department.

The new charges against Sara Sobel stemmed from a nine-page report provided to prosecutors by police in recent months that has yet to be made public.

Welsh entered the protective orders against the Sobels Thursday and called for a hearing in two weeks, where more evidence is likely to be presented. The court will also hear arguments on motions filed by the Sobels to close the courtroom to the public.

Sara Sobel resigned her position with the Region 9 board and with the Redding Democrats on the same day in September that the request to close the courtroom was filed by her attorney.

dperrefort@newstimes.com