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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Former band director gets 18 months in child seduction case

Friday, December 21, 2012

The first of three former North Putnam High School staff members charged with child seduction in connection with the same 16-year-old male student was sentenced Thursday morning to 18 months in prison in the scandal that rocked the school and community earlier this year.

Former NPHS band director Craig E. Rogers, 25, Indianapolis, was sentenced by Putnam Circuit Court Judge Matthew Headley to 18 months in the Department of Correction with six months to be served in prison and the remaining year on probation.

Rogers had entered a guilty plea to child seduction, a Class D felony, in a plea agreement with the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office.

Addressing the court and apologizing to the victim's family, his own family and the judge, Rogers admitted he violated the law and said he takes "full responsibility for it."

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"I caused pain to the student and his family," he said, "and I apologize to them ... not only this student but all of the students I had. They expected to have a teacher, and I was taken out of their classroom."

The victim's father also addressed the court, saying he doesn't believe Rogers is remorseful, and noting that when he confronted the band director at school, he was told by Rogers "you'd better tell your son to stay away from me and my office."

The victim was not even in band or a music student, his father noted, explaining that the situation spiraled out of control after two of the faculty members dated each other and then "conspired to meet" the victim.

After that, he added, Rogers "pressured him at school, online and over the phone."

Rogers was "a predator using his vocation as a hunting ground for his prey," the father accused in asking Judge Headley for the most "severe penalty under the guidelines of the law."

He said his son has not been the same since the incident unfolded.

"His demeanor, his joy and sense of humor ... all those things are gone," the father said. "He's not able to sleep at night, and we'll wake up and hear a noise we think is an animal and we'll find him curled up in a corner of the house somewhere crying."

Rogers was accused of fondling the teenager or touching him "with the intent to arouse or satisfy" his own sexual desires or those of the victim in an incident at the school.

"We know it wasn't egregious sexual contact but it was sexual contact," said Rogers' Indianapolis attorney Jim Voyles, the lawyer who defended Mike Tyson in his 1992 rape trial.

In noting Rogers has lost his career and has reached out for counseling "because he needs it," Voyles urged a sentence without time served in the DOC.

"His actions, not matter how egregious," Voyles continued, "he knows were wrong."

However, Judge Headley went another direction.

"This sentence is not going to satisfy your family," Headley told Rogers, "and it's not going to satisfy the defendant's family.

"I think it deserves some incarceration, sir," Headley stated. "To use the words of the victim's dad, you were basically a predator using the school as your hunting ground.

"Obviously," Headley continued, "you should never be a teacher of young people again. You're going to have to find something else to do.

"You've lost what you wanted to do for the rest of your life, at least with any school," the judge said, adding that no school corporation would likely take a chance on Rogers with a child seduction conviction on his record.

By virtue of that child seduction conviction, Rogers will be listed on the Indiana sex offender registry and Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter advised that the Indiana Department of Education has been in contact with him concerning the termination of Rogers' teaching license.

Judge Headley ordered Rogers to report to the Putnam County Jail by noon Monday, Jan. 7.

Also facing charges in the child seduction case are:

-- Nicholas A. Vester, 25, Lafayette, a substitute Spanish teacher for approximately 12 weeks during the first semester of the 2011-12 school year.

-- Brandon D. Largent, 21, Crawfordsville, who was a paid lifeguard and volunteer swim instructor at North Putnam from November 2011 through last spring.

Although all three defendants faced the same charge of child seduction, court documents indicate they shared varying levels of involvement with the teenage victim.

While Rogers was accused of fondling the teenager in an incident at the school, Largent's contact with the victim allegedly included kissing the boy in a North Putnam classroom.

Meanwhile, Vester is accused of engaging in "deviant sexual conduct," including anal intercourse and oral sex, "with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires" of himself or the victim in an incident occurring in the parking lot of a Lafayette furniture store.

Under Indiana law, there is apparently little difference in the degree of activity.

"The age of consent in Indiana is 16," Bookwalter has said, "unless you are a teacher or in an advisory position at a school, which makes it child seduction."

Court documents in the case also reported a connection between at least two of the defendants, Vester and Rogers. Authorities indicated Vester "not only knew Mr. Rogers (but) that they had a date together in November or December 2011, and had talked about (the victim)."

The encounters between the school personnel and the teenage occurred both on and off school property, the investigation showed, over a period from November 2011 through January 2012.

The case came to light last January when the boy and his family contacted authorities.

Court dates have not yet been set for Vester or Largent.