Gift for Ron Price

January 21, 1994

Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Eugene M. Lerner basically gave Ronald Walter Price a gift when he lopped five years off the convicted child abuser's 26-year sentence this week.

Judge Lerner had said at Price's Oct. 14 sentencing that he'd consider reducing the prison term if Price, who claimed on national TV that other Anne Arundel teachers were having sex with students, helped investigators pinpoint these alleged wrongdoers. It seemed a fair offer. Price's sentence was much harsher than state sentencing guidelines recommended; releasing him a few years early seemed a reasonable compromise to get other abusive teachers out of the classroom.

Apparently, however, Price didn't know quite as much as he implied when he went on "Geraldo!" and painted the school system as a hotbed of promiscuity. Police say he provided the names of only two Northeast teachers -- and they had been investigated before Price ever said anything. Prosecutor William Mulford II had it just about right when he said Price's cooperation helped weed out other guilty teachers as much as "spitting into the Chesapeake Bay" helps ease a water shortage.

Yet the judge ruled that Price's paltry information, plus the fact that he's finally starting to get a clue that what he did was wrong, was worth nearly a fifth of his sentence. There's something to be said for the argument that there's little practical sense in keeping someone like Price -- who isn't likely to be a threat now that he's forever barred from the classroom -- behind bars for 26 years. Still, the damage and uproar this man has wrought are great enough that he should have had to earn his breaks. This one came too easily.

And while we're on the subject of cooperation with the authorities, the aforementioned teachers, the ones Price named but who already had been investigated by police, have never been charged. Why? Because the victims refused to cooperate. No victim, no crime.

It is not hard to understand why these people are reluctant to pursue charges; the judicial process and media attention can be awful for victims and their families. But they should remember that choosing not to act also carries potentially terrible consequences -- namely, exposing new victims to the injustices they themselves have suffered.

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