Former NP Spanish teacher back in court for sentence modification

Friday, June 7, 2013
Nicholas Vester

His release date from the Department of Correction just 18 days away, the only one of three former North Putnam High School staff members still incarcerated has requested his early release.

Former NPHS interim Spanish teacher Nicholas Vester, 26, Lafayette, appeared in Putnam Circuit Court Thursday, requesting that Judge Matthew Headley grant him an early release into the Tippecanoe County Community Corrections program.

In February, Judge Headley handed down a two-year sentence for Vester's guilty plea to Class D felony child seduction. The sentence included one year executed with the DOC (with the possibility of the last three months on Community Corrections) and the remaining year on probation.

With the Indiana Good Time Credit, Vester's nine months in prison will result in a release date of June 24 -- less than five months in prison.

However, Vester and attorney Darrell Felling are hoping to reduce that time further.

Vester described his experiences since sentencing, from the Putnam County Jail to the DOC Reception Diagnostic Center then on to New Castle Correctional Facility.

He spoke of isolation and lack of counseling services, along with acts and threats of violence. He told the court of threats from other prisoners if he did not give them his prescription medication.

"I definitely think I've learned a lesson. With what just happened in Oklahoma -- the teachers that saved those kids. That really touched me," Vester said, getting emotional. "I realize that I violated that trust and that trust can never be instilled in me.

"I know I'll have to find a new career and with that career I'll have to build that respect back up," he added.

Vester was one of three former NPHS staff members charged with child seduction following incidents with the same boy. Although all three were originally charged with the same offense, Vester's offense was considered the most egregious.

He was 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, charges he admitted to investigators.

For that, he received the most severe penalty, two years with one executed.

Former band director Craig Rogers, 26, Indianapolis, was accused of fondling the teenager in an incident at the school and was sentenced to 18 months, with six to be served in prison.

In a March hearing, however, Rogers was granted his release to probation 28 days early, a fact lost on neither the defense nor the prosecution in the Vester case.

Details of why Rogers was granted an early release were never publicly discussed.

Former lifeguard and assistant swim coach Brandon Largent, 21, Crawfordsville, was said to have only kissed the boy. As such, his charge was reduced to battery, a Class B misdemeanor, and he was released with time served, to remain on probation through September.

Timothy Bookwalter spoke of the seriousness of Vester's crime compared to the others in arguing against the modification.

"The seriousness of everything else pales in comparison to what he (Vester) did," Bookwalter said.

The victim's father also addressed the court, explaining the effect these crimes have had on the family.

"This is something we are living with for life," the father said. "We don't get a modification. I can't take this away from my son."

He added that the family has exhausted its finances trying to get the young man counseling, which they have now canceled.

While he acknowledged Vester's difficult experience in prison, he said the defendant sounded more sorry to be in prison than for the crime he committed.

"I understand he's had an unpleasant experience in jail," the father said. "Forgive me, but isn't that supposed to be the effect of prison?

"To me, the only thing more egregious than the acts committed would be for this court to grant this modification."

Hearing all arguments, Headley took the matter under advisement, saying a decision would be returned within a couple of days.