A doctor accused of sending “sexually motivated” messages to two high school cheerleaders by using fake names on social media while volunteering at a Newport Beach campus was sentenced Friday to six months in jail.
David Lee Haller, a family practice physician, was also sentenced to a year of formal probation — with an additional 183 days in jail avoided pending completion of his supervised release — and ordered to register as a sex offender after he was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of child annoyance.
Haller, now 55, was accused of sending to two 15-year-year-old Newport Harbor High students messages in late-2017 that family members have said “terrified” the girls and made them feel like they were being stalked. At the time, Haller was a volunteer for the UC Irvine Spirit Cheerleading team who also worked as a doctor at multiple Newport Harbor High School events.
According to prosecutors, Haller first contacted one of the teens through a direct message on Instagram in which he pretended to be a middle school cheerleader and asked about high school cheer costumes and whether boys ever tried to look up their skirts. When the girl blocked him, prosecutors say Haller used a Snapchat account to again ask her about cheerleading uniforms and to ask if he could donate money to her while implying he had been watching her.
Haller used Snapchat to message the second girl, prosecutors said, telling her that he saw her at a game and in the process describing exactly where she had been positioned among other cheerleaders. Haller also told the teen that he saw her bend over and felt guilty about watching her.
Prosecutors allege that Haller also messaged two other girl’s, though he was not directly charged in connection with those messages. A coach at the school reached out to authorities after realizing that an unknown person had been reaching out to multiple cheerleaders on social media, and had directly contacted some of them.
Haller initially denied to a school resource officer that he was behind the messages, prosecutors said, until the officer said they had connected the social media accounts that had contacted the girls to his phone.
According to prosecutors, Haller then told the school resource officer that if the messages came from him or someone else that they weren’t meant to be threatening or harassing, adding that he enjoyed watching cheerleaders and saying that 16-year-olds “look like” 18-year-olds and “he looks at them even though he knows he should not.”
Prosecutors in a sentencing brief argued that the girls Haller messaged were particularly vulnerable due to their age, that he showed planning and sophistication by using multiple social media accounts with fake names and that he took advantage of the access he had as a doctor and volunteer.
An attorney representing Haller previously wrote in a court filing that Haller never attempted to start a personal relationship with any of the teen cheerleaders through social media and never reached out to them in person.
Source: Orange County Register