Assistant principal charged in prostitution ring delays plea

A Galileo High School assistant principal accused of helping operate two brothels in San Jose appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court today for the first time since his Aug. 7 arrest, but did not enter a plea.

Gerald Courtney, 57, was arrested by San Jose police for allegedly setting up leases for two apartments, one at 1550 Technology Drive and one at 80 Descanso Drive, in mixed-use neighborhoods not far from the San Jose Airport, police Sgt. Mike Sullivan said.

No minors, school officials or students from the San Francisco Unified School District were involved in the operation, police said.

“Mr. Courtney has denied any wrongdoing in the matter,” according to a letter Galileo Principal Vicki Pesek sent to parents Aug. 18. Courtney has been placed on paid administrative leave until the case is resolved. Peter Van Court, a former assistant principal at Lowell High School, has been selected to fill in for Courtney.

Police also believe Courtney posted advertisements for the prostitution business on online forums while his alleged accomplice, Hsiu Hwa Chou, served as the operation’s madam, Sullivan said. Chou, along with two other women accused of prostitution, were arrested Aug. 7.

Courtney posted $100,000 bail Aug. 8 and has remained out of custody since then, police said.

Courtney has worked for SFUSD since 1988, district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said, and worked at Hilltop and Balboa high schools before working at Galileo. Members of the Galileo High School community were surprised by his arrest, according to Pesek’s letter.

“It was a complete shock to me,” said Linda Lau, president of the Galileo Parent Teacher Student Association.

Board of Education Chair Mark Sanchez, who has known Courtney for years, said the administrator was “kind, generous and intelligent,” and very dedicated to his work.

At Balboa, “he would have working groups at his house, doing teacher development on his own time,” said Sanchez, who didn’t believe Courtney would have done anything wrong. “I’m not going to believe a charge against a friend unless I know more.”

Courtney is scheduled to enter a plea in Santa Clara County Court on Oct. 9, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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