Ex-teacher guilty of abusing pupil Man fondled student in class, home

January 10, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

A 29-year-old former school teacher from Gambrills has been convicted of sexually abusing one of his students over a three-year period.

Mark A. Nichols, a former sixth-grade teacher at the Annapolis Area Christian School, was convicted Friday of sexual child abuse and third- and fourth-degree sex offenses after a two-day trial before Judge Eugene M. Lerner.

The judge ordered Nichols, who had been free on $5,000 bail during the trial, held on $50,000 bail.

A jury of 11 women and one man deliberated 50 minutes before convicting Nichols of fondling a former student about 20 times while the victim was in grades seven through 10.

He is now a senior at another high school.

Nichols, who is to be sentenced March 5, faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, but guidelines specify a sentence ranging from six months to four years, Assistant State's Attorney Robert Bittman said.

Nichols also has been charged in three sexual child abuse cases in Anne Arundel County that have not come to trial, Mr. Bittman said. Nichols, now a salesman for an office supply firm in Elgin, S.C., showed no reaction as the verdict was announced.

The now-17-year-old victim, described in testimony as shy and something of an outcast because he attended a different church, put his head in his hands and cried softly as his parents embraced him.

"Praise God, the system works," the victim's mother later said.

"This man is finally going to have to come out of the state of denial, and the only way he is going to do that is through the prison system."

Tension in the courtroom spilled out into the courthouse hallway, where the victim had to restrain his older brother from going after a friend of Nichols', who shouted a stream of obscenities as he left the courtroom.

The victim testified that Nichols touched him repeatedly, both in the teacher's rented house in the 1600 block of Veterans Highway, and in his sixth-grade classroom, where the victim volunteered as an aide because he liked the classroom computer.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Richard Drury contended that there was no way Nichols could have fondled the victim unnoticed in a classroom that contained 26 sixth-grade students.

"If a teacher is going to bend down and put his hands down a students pants, you're going to notice that," he said.

But Mr. Bittman said the desk was obscured from view of the rest of the class.

He compared Nichols to a hungry wolf, who watched a flock of sheep passing and then carefully chose which lamb to attack.

"Which one does the wolf go after? The wolf goes after the weakest one because that's the one that's not going to arouse the cries of the rest of the pack," he said.

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