Hyde decides to serve out rape sentence

Ex-schools chief to face charges in Va. on release

Carroll County

March 31, 2004|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

With only two weeks left to ask a judge to reduce his sentence, former Carroll County schools Superintendent William H. Hyde has decided, for now, to serve out his 18-month term at the county jail for raping and sexually abusing an elementary school-age girl during the summer of 2002.

The decision not to appeal his conviction and avail himself of the appeal bond granted at his sentencing hearing in January means that Virginia authorities must hold off with plans to try the 62-year-old career educator on two felony counts of aggravated sexual battery. The girl has alleged that the abuse also occurred during a trip to Williamsburg, Va., in July 2002.

"We've just kind of been waiting for things to get wrapped up there before we get started here," said Leslie Siman-Tov, a Virginia prosecutor who will handle the Hyde case. "As it stands now, we're still a go."

Meanwhile, Hyde remains in the county Detention Center, across the street from the school system's administrative offices where he worked for 11 years as an assistant superintendent and two years in the top job.

Kathi Hill, Hyde's attorney, said the former schools chief is "doing OK," and has been informally tutoring young inmates in his unit who struggle to read.

"It's a difficult situation, at age 62, when you find yourself convicted and incarcerated for something that in your heart you know you did not do," Hill said of her client. Although Hyde wrote a letter of apology to the girl - in which he said he was sorry for touching her genital area - he testified at trial in August that investigators and the victim's mother had bullied him into apologizing for something he had not done.

But at the end of the eight-day trial, the judge believed the little girl. Calling her testimony "believable and convincing," county Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. convicted Hyde on all six counts against him.

In January, Burns ordered Hyde to serve 18 months of a 15-year prison sentence and granted his request to remain free on $50,000 bail while appealing his conviction.

On the morning of the sentencing, Hyde and his attorneys learned that Virginia authorities had filed arrest warrants to charge him with sexually abusing the girl in York County, Va.

Those charges will kick in as soon as Hyde tries to leave the Carroll County jail.

"We're still kind of in the same boat we were before," said Capt. James Richardson with the sheriff's office in York County. "Nothing changes until he finishes his [jail] term or gets out on the appeal bond."

The Virginia charges, he said, will act as a detainer, and Hyde will be placed under arrest as a fugitive from the commonwealth. He then would likely be held without bail during extradition proceedings.

Hill, Hyde's attorney, said the timing of events on the day of sentencing "was pretty difficult to swallow."

She declined to explain why Hyde chose not to appeal his conviction and said she has discussed with him the option of asking the court to modify his sentence. They have 90 days from the hearing date - until April 14 - to file such a request.

"There's a part of this that feels unfair, but I think [Hyde] also acknowledges that there are degrees of unfairness in life," Hill said. "So while this is definitely a terrible place to be, there are ... people who have been incarcerated for 18 years for crimes they did not commit. It's not fortunate, but if you're going to have the bad fortune of being convicted of something you did not do, it's better that it happened at the end of his career and not at the beginning, which would have destroyed most of his life's work.

"He's still able to be extremely productive in life and able to contribute to his community," she added. "He will just have to find other means to do it at this point."

Hyde left the Carroll school system in August 2000 amid calls for his resignation and investigations into district mismanagement. He worked for two years as superintendent of a small school district in a Montana lumber town before deciding to try his hand at educational consulting.

Hyde returned to Carroll County in June 2002 for a 2 1/2 -week visit and was convicted of raping and sexually abusing the victim at her family's home during that period.

The Sun is not disclosing many details from the case to protect the girl's identity.

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