Ex-McFarland High coach ordered held without bail in child sex sting case

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Released from prison in October, former McFarland High School basketball coach Fernando Pruneda went 24 days before allegedly committing the same offense that landed him in custody — contacting a minor for sex.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Michael G. Bush found Pruneda posed a threat to the public and granted a prosecutor’s motion to hold him without bail. Pruneda was placed in handcuffs in the courtroom and led away.

Defense attorney Mark Anthony Raimondo argued the motion was untimely and that prosecutors had previously agreed to Pruneda’s release on bail during a parole violation hearing last month, but Bush noted the new case hadn’t been filed at that time.

Fernando Pruneda, left, stands next to defense lawyer Mark Anthony Raimondo during his arraignment Wednesday.

Raimondo entered not guilty pleas on Pruneda’s behalf to three felonies related to contacting a minor to commit a sexual offense.

Before Bush’s ruling, Raimondo argued there was no change in his client’s circumstances since his arrest on the parole violation to justify increasing bail, and his client had been seeing a counselor and abiding by the terms of his release.

And Raimondo said the website Pruneda was on that led to his latest arrest required users to indicate they’re an adult to enter.

“It’s like bringing an alcoholic to the bar, setting up a bunch of drinks, and getting mad if he has a sip of whiskey,” the attorney said.

In response, prosecutor Brad Taconi said the detective with whom Pruneda was communicating clearly stated he was a minor.

Afterward, Taconi said the judge made the right decision.

“Mr. Pruneda is a danger to the community,” Taconi said. “He’s especially a danger to our youth.”

On Nov. 13, Pruneda was arrested in a sting operation in which he planned to meet someone he believed was a 14-year-old boy for sex, according to a court filing. Detectives changed the meeting location and Pruneda went to both sites, the filing says. He was arrested after showing up at the second location.

In 2018, Pruneda was arrested after a freshman basketball player told authorities the coach pursued him for a sexual relationship and touched him inappropriately under the guise of giving a massage.

Investigators found text messages where Pruneda pressured the 14-year-old boy for sexual favors, according to court documents.

A detective began communicating with Pruneda as if he was the boy, and Pruneda arranged to meet him for sex, documents said.

Pruneda pleaded no contest in October 2020 to contacting a minor to commit a sexual offense. He was sentenced to two years and prison and ordered to register as a sex offender.

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