Judge cuts five years from Price's sentence

January 18, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel Circuit judge yesterday trimmed five years off the 26-year sentence he gave Ronald Walter Price in October, saying the former teacher earned the reduction by cooperating with an investigation into sex abuse in the schools.

Judge Eugene M. Lerner said he appreciated Price's three hours of testimony before the Baron Commission, a task force headed by Washington attorney Alan Baron that was set up to look into allegations of child sex abuse in the county schools.

The judge also said the former Northeast High School teacher may be starting to feel sorry for the three female students he had sex with while he taught them at Northeast High School.

"I believe that you are beginning to understand that what you did was wrong. But you've got to be punished for what you did," Judge Lerner told Price.

Price will be eligible for parole after serving one quarter of the term, or five years and three months, said Leonard A. Sipes, a state prisons spokesman.

Price, who taught school for 24 and a half years, attracted national attention when he admitted on nationally televised talk shows that he had sexual relations with several of his students.

During his sentencing Oct. 14, Judge Lerner told Price that he would reconsider the sentence if Price cooperated with authorities and showed remorse.

Price, wearing a gray wool jacket and blue jeans, testified that his three months in prison have made him more remorseful and more willing to accept responsibility for his crimes.

"I don't bear any malice. I don't blame anybody else, I only blame myself," he said. Looking weary, drained and defeated, Price's demeanor sharply contrasted with the anger and defiance he displayed when he testified last fall and blasted school administrators as being "out of touch" with what goes on in the schools.

In a barely audible voice, Price said he was sorry for the "pain and embarrassment" he caused his victims, the county school system and "particularly Northeast High School."

"My life, as I've known it, is over," he said.

One of Price's attorneys said his demeanor has changed because he realizes that he may spend the rest of his life in prison.

"You're looking at a man who has lost everything," said Jonathan Resnick. "Everything he had has been taken from him. He gave 24 and a half years of his life to teaching, and now that's gone forever."

Detective William Collier, assigned to the Anne Arundel County police child abuse unit, said Price revealed to the Baron commission the names of two teachers who had sex with two students at Northeast.

But the identities of the teachers and students had been investigated before Price revealed them, and charges were never filed against those teachers because the victims refused to cooperate with the police, he said.

Assistant State's Attorney William Mulford II, who prosecuted Price, had asked Judge Lerner yesterday to let his original sentence stand.

He compared Price's testimony to investigators to "spitting into the Chesapeake Bay" to help deal with a water shortage.

"His cooperation was pretty much useless," Mr. Mulford said.

He said that two of the victims, who could not attend yesterday's hearing, were "outraged" when told that Price had asked for early release and to serve his time under house arrest.

The third victim, a 16-year-old Pasadena youth, told Judge Lerner that she has yet to live down the shame and embarrassment Price brought into her life.

She acknowledged that she had called Price's wife on Christmas Eve. But she said it was only to wish Patti Price well during the holiday.

"I just wanted Patti to know I was thinking of her," she said. "I was being sincere, and I just wanted to wish her a Merry Christmas."

Mrs. Price declined comment after the hearing.

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