The Pine Cone's fourth story of the week

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Language teacher hit with three felonies

By KELLY NIX

Published: May 13, 2011

A DEFENSE Language Institute Arabic teacher — who was tased after he allegedly fought with officers in a DLI conference room — has been charged with attempted rape, assault with a deadly weapon, cruelty to a child, domestic violence and other charges.

Atef Samir Gergawy, 38, was taken into custody by Pacific Grove police officers April 29 on allegations he tried to rape his wife — whom police refer to as Jane Doe — and injured his son earlier in April.

But Gergawy, who has worked at DLI for 13 years, staunchly denied the charges Wednesday, telling The Pine Cone he never hurt his wife or his son.

“I never did that,” he said. “They are false accusations against me.”

Gergawy’s arrest followed what police say was a violent encounter between him and his wife at their home April 16 on the 500 block of Gibson Avenue. The couple’s young son that day told police officers — who happened to be on Gibson Avenue on another call — about the row.

“He said, “My daddy hit my mom,’” Pacific Grove police Cmdr. John Nyunt told The Pine Cone.

After briefly speaking to police, the child ran back inside the house. Officers went to the home and spoke to Gergawy’s wife. Gergawy was gone by the time they arrived.

“She ends up disclosing that [Gergawy] grabbed her so that she had difficulty breathing” in what the she described as a “bear hug,” Nyunt said.

“That never happened,” said Gergawy.

The incident happened after Gergawy told his wife, from an arranged marriage in their home country of Egypt, that he wanted a separation, according to Nyunt.

Gergawy acknowledged he and his wife have been having marital problems, but he said he never hurt her physically.

“I told my wife, ‘Please, I want to be separated,’” Gergawy said. “‘I am not attracted to you.’”

At some point during the argument, Gergawy tried to force himself on Doe, and “saying she had a duty to submit to him,” according to Nyunt.

“I never did that,” Gergawy said. “I’m not attracted sexually to my wife, so why would I do that?”

It was some time after Doe denied his advances that Nyunt said Gergawy squeezed his wife to the point she had difficulty breathing, which the teacher also refuted.

After the April 16 incident, officers went to Gergawy’s home several times to speak to him, but he wasn’t there, Nyunt said.

On a visit April 28 to the home, however, a police officer spoke to a neighbor who said he noticed a “raised bump” near Gergawy’s son’s right eye that was “reddish-purple.”

“The kid said his daddy smacked him and he hit his head on the door,” Nyunt said.

Gergawy told The Pine Cone he loves his kids dearly and would never harm them.

“My children are my life,” he said. “They are my kids. How can I hit my kids?”

His wife and children have since moved out of their Gibson Avenue house.

Arrested at DLI

Having what Nyunt called “probable cause” to believe Gergawy had committed a crime, officers Rachael Beuttler and Terry Baggett went to DLI April 29 to arrest him. Two officers from the Presidio of Monterey Police were also there.

Police contend Gergawy fought back when they tried to arrest him at the dean’s office.

Gergawy told officers “nobody was going to touch him and he did not want to be handcuffed,” Nyunt said.

Gergawy said he told officers he didn’t want to be cuffed and escorted outside in front of students and staff. He requested that officers walk him uncuffed to their patrol car.

“I told them. ‘Please don’t come to my work and don’t cuff me. I have been working here 13 years. You are going to make me humiliated,’” he said.

A struggle between Gergawy and the two P.G. officers ensued after that, Nyunt said. Though police said Gergawy punched Baggett, the teacher said he never intentionally hit anyone, and said he became agitated after the officer “jumped on” his back.

Gergawy also said he is bipolar.

“It’s a medical condition,” he said. “You can’t jump on someone who is bipolar and beat the crap out of him and expect him to act cool.”

Police said they had to deploy a taser to control Gergawy. Officers had to use it more than once because the device’s barbs initially didn’t make contact properly, Nyunt said.

“They tased me four times,” Gergawy said. “They almost gave me a heart attack.”

The officers were eventually able to cuff Gergawy, who was taken to the P.G. Police Department before being booked into Monterey County Jail. He posted bail not long after being arrested.

The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office charged Gergawy with domestic violence with injury, assault with a deadly weapon and attempted rape of a spouse, all felonies. He was also charged with causing injury to a child, cruelty to a child, domestic violence battery, damaging a telephone and interfering with a cellular communication device, all misdemeanors. He has pleaded not guilty.

Gergawy said he has been placed on administrative leave at DLI, but is desperately hoping to get his job back. He’s also having financial problems.

“This is America,” he said. “America was one of my biggest dreams ... to have my own freedom, to have justice and have fairness. Please don’t let this dream go away.”