John Francis Pertuit
Article By James Sutton. Edited by Chuck Hardin.
John Francis Pertuit is a Flagstaff, Arizona man who taught electronics at a local high school, and a mix of karate and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the gymnasium after hours. He pled guilty to three counts of sexual conduct with two of his teenage students in school and martial arts. Unfortunately, his misconduct has been used to tar the image of Brazilian jiu-jitsu by at least one local instructor.
Timeline of Events
2007: The First Hint Of Trouble
According to an article on AZCentral.com, Pertuit was the subject of an investigation of sexual misconduct with a minor at some point in 2007. However, the case did not result in a prosecution, allegedly because "the girl involved was uncooperative".
February 2009: Firmer Allegations Arise; Pertuit Arrested
On Monday, February 23, 2009, Pertuit was arrested on six counts of sexual conduct with a minor. He was booked into the Coconino County Jail, his bond was set at $75,000, and he was placed on administrative leave from the school, for the safety of the students. Investigators stated that none of the activity occurred on school grounds, and each count was for a separate incident of sexual conduct.
March 2009 - February 2010: Pertuit On Trial
On March, 17, 2009, Pertuit entered a plea of Not Guilty was granted a bail reduction hearing to be held on March 24, 2009. At that hearing, his bond was reduced to an unspecified amount, and he was released pending trial.
On July 15, 2009, the Associated Press reported that Pertuit was scheduled for a trial date of December 8, 2009, and that his attorney claimed a plea deal was being negotiated.
On December 23, 2009, Pertuit changed his plea to Guilty. Under the terms of his proposed plea agreement, he was to be charged restitution payments of up to $30,000 to the two teenagers, put on probation for the rest of his life, and sentenced to a prison term of two to three years. In return, Pertuit was to avoid prosecution on allegations of sexual conduct from a third victim. If he had gone to trial and been found guilty, he could have been fined more than $500,000 and sentenced to a prison term somewhere between three and sixteen years.
On February 17, 2010, Pertuit was sentenced by the court to two years imprisonment, registration as a sex offender, and standard probation for the rest of his life. At his sentencing, he claimed that he never had sexual contact with the two victims, despite having pleaded guilty. He stated the allegations by the two victims were made in an attempt to sue the school district for a large settlement. "I am not a menace to society," he said.
Pertuit has not been added to the Arizona Sex Offender Registry at this writing. The Arizona Department of Education has issued no statement about a revocation or voluntary surrender of his teacher's certification. However, he is listed as a prisoner in the Arizona correctional system.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu On Trial?
Mikel Steenrod, owner of the Flagstaff Water Mountain Martial Society, wrote a long manifesto on the Pertuit case. The original is available for purchase, but has been extensively quoted on an Arizona wrestling forum. Steenrod seized upon the fact that Pertuit taught Brazilian jiu-jitsu in order to make several claims about that art as a whole:
I want to take a moment to look at the issue of character, Brazilian Jui Jitsu [sic], and John Peruit’s failings as a human being...
In many places in Phoenix, BJJ is taught in strip clubs on off hours and is also associated with drug gangs. It is taught informally, in small groups. Same reason: no hint of moral underpinning, quick and dirty, driven by muscle. Performance is actually enhanced by the consumption of cocaine and meth.
Brazilian [jiu-jitsu] arose out of contests between gangs in Brazil. It was used to enforce territory and keep control of the market of drugs and teen prostitutes. It has no history of self-control, did not emerge from people known for self control, and came from a criminal mind set.
Steenrod's statement contains several basic errors of fact. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was developed, not by criminal gangs, but by the sons of Gastão Gracie, a prominent businessman and politician. It was derived from the teachings of Maeda Mitsuyo, a judo instructor; judo is famous for its philosophy of self-control and its reliance on technique over muscle.
Steenrod cites no other examples of BJJ instructor misconduct, and his allegations about training facilities are unsupported by evidence. This raises two questions: Why not blame karate for Pertuit's misdeeds, since he also taught that? And why blame the entire BJJ community for one blue belt gone bad?
Given Steenrod's basic factual and logical errors, Bullshido concludes that his argument concerning BJJ and its role in this incident lacks merit.
John Francis Pertuit abused his position of trust as a teacher to exploit teenage girls sexually. However, his crimes do not constitute a condemnation of BJJ as a whole, despite the hyperbolic claims of the owner of a competing school in the area.