To the Mid-Prairie and Surrounding Community:
Twenty years ago I committed a crime. I am ashamed to say that at the time, I considered what I was doing the equivalent of a college prank. I intended to video a high school volleyball player who was trying on an athletic bra, then show the tape to someone else as a joke.
I do not mean to minimize what I did. I acted alone, and it was extremely thoughtless and unempathetic. Because other members of the team previously used that room to try on outfits, some members of the community believed others may have been taped. This is not true. My apartment, car, classroom and computer were thoroughly searched.
On the advice of counsel, I initially pled not guilty, because my lawyer found a way I could possibly win in court. Months later, I decided that I didn’t want any students to have to testify, so I pled guilty.
I was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison. I went to the Iowa Medical Classification Center (where they decide maximum or minimum security), and I was given a battery of tests.
After my evaluations, the judge suddenly reduced my sentence to six weeks. I was placed on probation and put in the sex offender program, where I had to do testing all over again, far more extensive. It was all very humiliating, but fair. After evaluation, I was required to remain on probation for four years out of the maximum 10 years.
I was also required to be on the sex offender registry. At that time, the minimum duration on the registry was 10 years, the maximum was life. I was given 10 years. I’m thankful that all the testing I went through was so thorough (written tests, psych tests, polygraphs and others) because many state officials recommended that I get minimal consequences. I was considered low risk to re-offend.
Minimal consequence was still pretty rough, but soon I met my wife, Tammy, and we had three wonderful children. We had setbacks, sometimes due to my legal situation and also a personal tragedy, but we also had an extremely supportive community.
When my oldest son started school in 2008, my wife and I decided that to be an example to our children I should be involved in their education and other community events if I could. Since I had completed my time on the registry, there was no legal reason that I could not volunteer, though we always disclosed my conviction anyway.
In 2014, however, M-P began doing background checks and I was declined. I asked the superintendent to look at my case again. He outlined several things I needed to do including providing him documents and many letters of recommendation from key community members. If I did all these things, he would consider allowing me limited participation.
After a long process he agreed to allow me to do some volunteer work with the stipulation that there be another adult present. I have taken that seriously because I want children and parents to feel safe, but I also need to protect myself and my own family by ensuring that no one could make a false accusation.
So once again, someone looked at the facts of my case and decided I should be given a second chance. It is worth noting that since this decision was made, I have volunteered in classroom activities only four times. I chaperoned three field trips (each time I drove separately and was beside my son the entire day), and this year, I volunteered for one hour at a middle school band day where soloists were rated (I logged ratings into a computer with lots of parents around).
I have also built the last four theatre sets. While building sets, the vast majority of the time I worked alone or with my sons. On the rare occasions when there were students involved, directors were always present and sometimes parents and my own sons.
It has been 20 years since my crime, and I know that I have been extremely fortunate to have so many people along the way support me. Mid-Prairie and this community have been no different. It has never been my intention to do anything but help this community.
Therefore, because Tammy and I are so grateful of the way we’ve been treated here, and because we don’t want M-P to be seen in a bad light, I formally announced on April 28 that I will not volunteer at any M-P events for the remainder of the year. The school board needs time to look at the facts of my case.
I want my sons to learn that they should use whatever gifts they have to help their community. Even though my past has made it difficult, I feel the best way to teach this is to show them. It would be far easier to just quit.
Spelling Club parents are now very aware of my conviction so they can decide if they would still like their kids to participate. It is a private club, not a M-P event, but I will still always have it in a public place and always with another adult present. Pat Anderson has volunteered to be our “mascot,” and attend meetings. Parents have always been welcome to stay.
My wife and I have not read anything on social media, though I’ve been told that much of it is cruel and misinformed.
I have read only a few of the recent newspaper articles. There is a lot of misinformation and speculation. Tammy and I have decided it is not worth trying to combat it all, but there are two clarifications I would like to make:
1. There was only one tape that pertained to my crime with one person on it. Any other tapes that were confiscated were simply movies like Star Wars, etc. I was charged with one crime, and I completed everything required many years ago.
2. When I was a teacher, in my classroom on Fridays, I would stand at the door at the end of the day and say, “OK, it’s time to line up for the 3 H’s” and the students could choose what they wanted: Hug, handshake, or high five.
Again, Tammy and I want to thank this community. We have received so many texts, emails, phone calls and letters of support. It means the world to us.
I am deeply sorry for any pain I’ve caused the Anita community and my own. I have met with four people from the Anita community and it has been a healing experience for us all. I will continue to offer to meet with anyone if it will help healing begin.