Hyde gets 18 months in jail

Former schools chief sentenced for conviction in child sex abuse case

Virginia also may prosecute

Carroll County

January 16, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Announcing a sentence that he anticipated would be criticized, a Carroll County judge ordered yesterday former Carroll schools Superintendent William H. Hyde to serve 18 months in the county detention center for raping and sexually abusing an elementary school-aged girl in the summer of 2002.

Just two hours earlier, as Hyde and his attorneys were heading into the courtroom for the sentencing hearing, they learned that Virginia authorities want to try the 62-year-old career educator on two felony counts of aggravated sexual battery. The young girl has alleged that the abuse also occurred during a trip to Williamsburg in July 2002.

"You see two deputies coming your way, and I've been around long enough to know that something bad is about to happen," defense attorney Kathi Hill said after the sentencing hearing. Although there was testimony at Hyde's trial in August about the Virginia investigation, Hill said she learned of Virginia's arrest warrants yesterday morning.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. also granted Hyde's request for an appeal bond, which allows him to remain free - on the $50,000 he posted after his August 2002 arrest - while appealing his conviction.

The confluence of the sentence, appeal bond and new charges left many people, from courtroom observers to the warden of the county jail, wondering whether Hyde would be incarcerated yesterday or released.

"If I did understand it, I would attempt to explain it to you," Warden George R. Hardinger of the Carroll County Detention Center said. "I imagine a number of people are scrambling around to sort this out legally."

By early evening, Capt. James Richardson with the Sheriff's Office in York County, Va., said Hyde would be served with the new warrants when he completed his jail term or attempted to leave jail on the appeal bond.

At that point, Hyde would be arrested as a fugitive from justice and likely held without bail during extradition proceedings, said Tracy A. Gilmore, Carroll County's deputy state's attorney.

"Either way, we'll get him now or get him later," Richardson said. "We just want to make sure we get him back here to stand trial." In Virginia, aggravated sexual battery charges carry a sentence of one to 20 years.

Hyde remained in the detention center last night.

Hyde left the Carroll school system after 13 years in August 2000 amid calls for his resignation and investigations into district mismanagement.

When he left Carroll County, Hyde took a job with a 240-pupil school system in the mountains of western Montana. He declined to renew his contract there in 2002, choosing instead to work in educational consulting.

He returned to Carroll County in June 2002 for a 2 1/2 -week visit and was convicted of raping and sexually abusing the child at her family's home during that period. The Sun is not disclosing many details from the case to protect the girl's identity.

The jail term imposed by Burns fell short of the 25 years requested by the prosecutor and the pleas of the victim's parents to keep Hyde locked up long enough for their daughter to get through middle school, high school, college and her first job without having to worry about Hyde's whereabouts.

"Let her get to the point where she is a well-adjusted, functioning adult before there is a chance for ... the abuser to come back into her life and send her spiraling down," the victim's mother told Burns.

Gilmore said the girl has told her therapist that she no longer wishes to have children "because it hurt."

"Obviously," the prosecutor said, "she's talking about sex."

Gilmore also addressed what she said was the biggest unanswered question: Why would a career educator with no prior history of child abuse rape and molest a young girl?

"I don't think that ever will be answered," she said. "Nor does it have to be answered for justice to be meted out."

Noting that sentencing guidelines recommended a term of 10 years and three months to 22 years in prison, Gilmore told Burns that "a sentence even in excess of the guidelines is appropriate."

But Hill, one of Hyde's two attorneys, said a lengthy prison term was tantamount to sending Hyde away for life because he would not be granted parole until he stopped professing his innocence.

"Is it enough that Bill Hyde has lost everything in his life, the respect of the community, the reputation he built?" she asked. "Is it enough that he has been publicly vilified ... that he has lost the ability to commit to the field of education?"

In a quavering voice and dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief, Hyde told the judge of the punishment he has suffered.

"The past year and a half has absolutely shattered my life," Hyde said. "As a man, your honor, could you find it in your heart ... to help me?"

Burns warned dozens of courtroom observers that his decision might be unpopular.

"I am not going to put Mr. Hyde in jail for 25 years. I am sure there will be criticism of the sentence I impose, but I am used to that," the judge said.

Describing the case as one of the most difficult he has tried in 25 years, Burns sentenced Hyde to 15 years and suspended all but 18 months. He tacked on five years' probation and ordered him to pay $4,455.60 in restitution and to cover the cost of any future therapy for the girl.

"In this case, there has been tremendous punishment already, I believe, and damage done not only to [the victim], her parents and her [family], but damage done also to the defendant," Burns said, later adding, "Nobody's happy."

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