Dance teacher gets 6 years in sexual abuse

Assault of young student occurred over two years

5 years' probation also imposed

Sentencing ends case marked by several twists

Ellicott City

October 21, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

An Ellicott City ballet teacher convicted of sexually abusing a young student during two years of private lessons was sentenced yesterday to six years in prison.

Hobbled by injuries from a serious accident that forced the postponement of his sentencing Thursday, Jose Anibal Macedo stared at the trial table as Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney imposed a 20-year sentence with all but six years suspended.

Sweeney said he recognized the strong support Macedo, 42, enjoys in the community - 10 to 15 parents and students have attended every hearing - but said he could not ignore the fact that the Halethorpe resident had been convicted of "very serious and disturbing criminal offenses."

"There's no question that these repeated criminal acts will have a devastating impact on the victim in this case and will persist for some time to come," Sweeney said. State sentencing guidelines recommended a four- to nine-year prison term for Macedo. Sweeney also imposed five years of probation and ordered Macedo to register as a sexual offender.

As sheriff's deputies prepared to lead him from the courtroom, Macedo, leaning heavily on a cane and with his neck in a brace, reached out for his wife, Charlene, but was stopped by a deputy.

"Thank you everyone," he said, his voice barely audible, to his crying dance students and their parents as he limped from the room.

Later, Charlene Macedo said she continues to believe that her husband is innocent.

"He's a good man, a good husband, a good father and an excellent teacher," she said."What's been done to him here is an outrage. It proves in many ways that the system is completely flawed."

But prosecutor Mary Murphy said she was pleased that the victim was believed and the judge imposed a "significant sentence for this heinous crime." She said she hopes the victim, a 15-year-old girl who is dancing abroad, can move on with her life.

"Quite frankly and very simply, the family wanted justice to be carried out," she said.

Yesterday's sentencing marked the end of a case that has had its share of twists. A trial in June ended with the jury deadlocked. A second set of jurors, who heard the case over three days in July, voted to convict Macedo on all counts - attempted rape, child abuse and three sexual offenses.

Then came a change in lawyers that delayed Macedo's attempt to persuade Sweeney to grant him a new trial. And then the car crash Thursday on northbound Interstate 95, one hour before Macedo was scheduled to return to the courthouse from a lunch break for sentencing.

In a written statement read in court yesterday, the victim said Macedo betrayed her and stole her innocence. The Sun does not name victims of sexual assault.

"I have no physical scars, no broken bones, but I have many emotional scars and bruises," she wrote. "The memories are there all the time; always simmering just under the surface, always ready to explode into horrible flashbacks and nightmares."

From the witness stand in July, the girl detailed an escalating pattern of sexual abuse during private lessons at Macedo's Advance Dance Academy on Baltimore National Pike. The assaults started with kissing when she was a pre-teen and progressed over two years to more serious abuse, she testified.

"Your honor, this man has betrayed the trust of a child, and he has changed that child's life," Murphy told Sweeney after reading the girl's letter aloud. "What a shame for someone so young to say they've lost hope."

But other students and their parents said in letters and from the witness stand that they knew Macedo as a consummate professional, an "honorable man" who doted on his wife and two young children.

"I respect him as much as any person I know," said Margaret Horne, whose daughter was one of Macedo's students.

After the sentencing, Macedo's lawyer, Laurel A. Albin, who had asked Sweeney to place her client on probation or home detention, immediately filed a notice of appeal.

Even with Macedo in prison, Charlene Macedo and Michelle Beyerle, who teaches at the academy and studied with the ballet master, said they are moving ahead with plans for his annual performance of The Nutcracker. And they said they plan to keep the studio open and operating.

Beyerle, 20, and her mother, Laurie, said they believe Macedo is innocent.

"There's no rationale to any of this," Laurie Beyerle said. " ... It's just her word against his."

Macedo, of the 1100 block of Taylor Ave., faces two more trials as a result of separate sexual assault accusations made by two other students. Those cases are scheduled for Nov. 3 and Dec. 8.

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