Ex-teacher asks to die out of prison Ronald Price fatally ill with lung cancer

Seeks move to hospice

Former instructor serving term for sex abuse of students

January 15, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The former Anne Arundel County teacher whose sexual relationships with students embarrassed school officials and prompted statewide reforms has terminal cancer and wants to die in a hospice instead of a prison.

Ronald W. Price is asking an Anne Arundel County circuit judge to release him from prison so that he can be moved "for humanitarian purposes."

Price, 53, is dying of lung cancer.

The former Northeast High School teacher was convicted of sexually abusing three female students in 1993.

His case drew widespread attention after he said on the nationally syndicated "Geraldo!" television show that he'd had sex with more than twice that many students.

Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner sentenced Price to 26 years in prison, then cut that to 21 years in 1994.

Price was diagnosed with cancer in October, according to a hospital physician's assessment that accompanied Price's written request to Lerner to reconsider the sentence.

Price's physicians at the University of Maryland Medical System are abandoning treatment because his cancer has advanced to the stage that it is not responsive to medication, according to the request.

"He is in horrible shape," said his attorney, T. Joseph Touhey.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said yesterday that he learned two days ago of Price's condition and that he would not object to Price's request.

But Weathersbee said that he doubted his office would assist Price in the request, as Touhey had suggested.

In a letter to Lerner, Touhey said that he also is asking the Maryland Parole Board and Gov. Parris N. Glendening to intervene but that the quickest alternative would be for Lerner to reconsider Price's sentence.

If Lerner refuses, Touhey said, he will press the others, "though, under the circumstances, I do not look for any swift action that will be meaningful from either source."

Price also has a Feb. 9 court date on a petition for a new trial, but Touhey wants Lerner first to act on the sentencing request.

Granting Price a new trial would be pointless because he likely would die before his case was reheard, Touhey said.

Price has said he was ill served by his former attorneys, Timothy F. Umbreit and Jonathan S. Resnick, during his 1993 trial because they exploited his case "for personal financial gain, notoriety, press coverage and political advancement" that led to conflicts of interest.

The notoriety took a huge toll on the Anne Arundel school system. It put Northeast High School through an emotional wringer, cast an unwelcome spotlight on the nation's 47th-largest school system and led to a state-ordered investigation into how the county schools handled accusations that teachers had sexually abused students.

The investigation brought other cases to light and led to the NTC resignation of Superintendent C. Berry Carter III amid criticism that he had mishandled earlier accusations. The case also prompted an agreement between the Maryland State Department of Education and school systems statewide to teach school employees what to do if they suspect a student is being abused.

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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