Former teacher gets 10 years

Taneytown instructor sentenced in sexual abuse of two boys

March 08, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Calling him "a monster child predator," a Carroll County judge sentenced longtime Taneytown Elementary School teacher Harold W. Fair Jr. to 10 years in prison yesterday for having sex with a 13-year-old male pupil and inappropriately touching another pupil who was 10 years old at the time.

In sentencing the 50-year-old former math teacher, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. pointed out contradictory depictions of Fair by those who know and support him and six former pupils who say Fair abused them over 22 years.

On one hand, Burns said, 42 letters from principals, school counselors, teachers, former pupils and parents paint Fair "as one of the most outstanding community members in Taneytown," a Teacher of the Year award winner and an educator so trusted that principals left him in charge of the school in their absence.

"But on the other side, there's no doubt that Harold Fair used his position in school - a position of the utmost trust - to act as a predator of the children under his charge," the judge said. "It's almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. On one hand, he's the teacher of the year. On the other hand, he's a monster child predator."

Fair, who taught math for 27 years at his hometown elementary school and at Northwest Middle, was charged in June with 31 counts of sexually abusing six former pupils between 1978 and 2000. He pleaded guilty in January to felony sexual child abuse of two boys, and, as part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the remaining 27 charges involving four other boys.

Three of Fair's former pupils - now ages 30 and 32 - were in court to see their one-time mentor be sentenced. Family members of the other three former pupils - now ages 12, 21 and 27 - attended yesterday's sentencing hearing on their behalf.

One 30-year-old man whom Fair abused when he was 10 told the judge of the lingering effects of abuse that have hampered his relationships with friends and family and contributed to a violent streak, an inability to trust others and a criminal history. The Sun does not name victims of sexual abuse.

"I've struggled for 13 years with severe anger problems - so severe that the people I love and care for the most are afraid to say the wrong thing or do something wrong because I'll get angry," he said through tears. "I don't want my loved ones being afraid of me, not knowing when I'm going to snap. ... As embarrassing as this is to say, I believe I've physically abused everyone I care about except for my children, but most of all, I've abused myself time and time again. ... I want so badly to just try to be normal, whatever that may be, because I've never been normal."

The man dismissed defense attorney Thomas C. Morrow's contention that sentencing Fair to 20 years in prison, as prosecutors had requested, would be tantamount to a life sentence because of Fair's age and health problems.

"I got my life sentence 20 years ago when Mr. Fair did this to me and I think the state asking for 20 years is not too much," he said. "I'm going to have to live with this the rest of my life."

Fair, too, said that the outcome of this criminal prosecution is something that will stay with him forever. In brief remarks to the judge, he apologized for betraying the trust he held as a teacher, reiterated that he does not admit to a majority of prosecutors' allegations and thanked friends and colleagues "who stood by me even when it must have been humiliating."

"I never tried to hurt. I only tried to help," he said. "I've lost everything and that's a punishment that no incarceration can match."

Assistant State's Attorney Natasha Byus reminded the judge that although the victims seated in the front row of the courtroom were now men with families and children of their own, they were elementary school pupils when Fair fondled them in his classroom, invited them to his home for sex and alcohol and took advantage of their families' trust.

The good qualities described in Morrow's half-inch-thick book of letters from supportive friends and colleagues are the same qualities, Byus said, that allowed Fair to win the trust of the young men he abused.

As an example, Byus told the judge of a woman who learned of the allegations against Fair in the newspaper and "was willing to jump to support Fair, thinking that he couldn't possibly have done" what he was charged with doing.

Then she learned that her 27-year-old son was one of the victims, having suffered three years of abuse, including forcible sex when he was 13 years old.

Fair also was sentenced to serve five years' probation and ordered to have no unsupervised contact with children, to have no contact with the victims and to register with Maryland authorities as a sex offender.

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