Ex-teacher gets term of 4 years in sex case

Man had met girl, 13, on Internet chat room

October 10, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A former Dundalk high school teacher who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet on New Year's Day was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison for a crime a Howard County judge called "every suburban parent's worst nightmare."

As a teacher, Charles Levi Maxwell, an admitted sex addict, must have recognized that he was dealing with a minor, said Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney. But instead of calling off their meeting in Ellicott City, Maxwell decided to "proceed ahead and charge ahead," even making plans to meet her again a few days later, Sweeney said.

"He certainly is the nightmare that every otherwise good family would dread having visit them," Sweeney said before imposing a 20-year sentence, with all but four years suspended, and five years' probation for attempted rape and sexual offense convictions.

Maxwell, 34, bowed his head as Sweeney spoke. Earlier, he apologized to his family and to the family of his teen-age victim, saying he had been raised with "really good principles and morals." He said he had avoided trouble all his life but was consumed by "lust," which he called "the one drug that was legal and had no warnings on it."

"I'd never experienced anything like that in my entire life," he said. He asked Sweeney for mercy. "The addiction blinds you. You don't even realize what you're doing," Maxwell said.

After his release from prison, Maxwell, who was living in Timonium at the time of the assault but now owns a home in Harrisburg, Pa., will have to register as a sexually violent offender and pay $875 toward his victim's counseling.

The girl, now 14, testified at a trial in July that boredom and curiosity led her to log on to an America Online chat room from her Ellicott City home Jan. 1, when she met a man using the screen name DeepEyes4U69. The two agreed to meet and Maxwell picked her up and took her to a church parking lot, where he molested her, she testified. The Sun does not name victims of sexual assault.

The assault was interrupted when a car pulled into the church parking lot. The girl later told her mother and best friend what had happened, according to testimony.

When Maxwell contacted the girl again, investigators were watching and set up a sting to catch him, according to testimony. He was arrested Jan. 7 after he showed up for a second meeting with the girl, according to testimony.

Prosecutor Jim Dietrich urged Sweeney to order a minimum of four years in prison "with an idea that the community has to continue to be protected from Mr. Maxwell." Sentencing guidelines recommended a jail term from three months to four years.

But Maxwell's attorney, Joseph Murtha, noted that his client has sought counseling for his addiction and has strong support from his parents, his brother and his fiancee, who is eight months pregnant.

Not only has he lost his job, but he likely will have problems finding a new one and has shamed his family, said Murtha, who urged Sweeney to sentence Maxwell to the 2 1/2 months he served awaiting sentencing and place him on home detention.

Maxwell, who was working as a business science teacher at Dundalk High School at the time of his arrest, lost his job with Baltimore County public schools after officials decided not to renew his contract.

Maxwell's father, also named Charles Maxwell, said there had been signs that something was wrong with his son. He was depressed and more distant from his mother, said the elder Maxwell, who asked Sweeney to let his son go home so he can get treatment for his addiction.

"We'd like to have him start a new life," said his father.

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