Band Director Sentenced In Assault

August 14, 2009|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,larry.carson@baltsun.com

A longtime band director at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County was sentenced to 18 months in jail Thursday for sexually abusing a female student at the school over a two-year period, prosecutors said.

Judge Timothy McCrone sentenced Robert Douglas Johnston, who taught at the school for 35 years before his arrest in December, to nine years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. Johnston will be able to serve his time in the county detention center and will be on supervised probation for five years after his release. He also must register as a sex offender, Assistant States Attorney Colleen McGuinn said.

Johnston, 61, pleaded guilty in April, agreeing to the 18-month sentence then. He faced a maximum of 25 years in prison.

"I think the sentence is exactly what we asked for," McGuinn said.

The victim in the case - who was 15 when the abuse began - spoke at the sentencing about the impact, telling the judge that she had only recently begun to feel like a kid again, McGuinn added.

"She was very brave," McGuinn said.

After the sentence was pronounced, Johnston's wife cried out that she loved him and burst into tears.

Johnston began teaching in Howard County schools in 1969 and started at Mount Hebron in 1974. The school's band earned numerous awards during Johnston's tenure; in 1999, it was the only high school group invited to perform as part of "America's Millennium," a New Year's celebration on CBS.

Johnston was the fourth Howard public school teacher in a two-year span to be convicted of inappropriate contact with students. The previous three were arrested during a two-month period during the 2006-2007 school year and faced various charges.

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