Former Crofton school aide gets 18 months for molesting child

Second sentence for 63-year-old expected this week

November 29, 2010|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

A 63-year-old former classroom aide was sentenced Monday to 18 months in jail and is expected to receive a similar sentence later this week for molesting two girls in his Crofton neighborhood — a sentence crafted to keep John Riva, who has no previous criminal record, out of state prison.

"I am aware of the implication of sending a 63-year-old man to the Division of Correction," Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner told Riva. He said that although he wanted to punish Riva, "it is not my intention to sentence you to death."

Later, by telephone, Hackner said that he did not assume that Riva necessarily would be killed in prison. But, he said, there is a presumption that child molesters are at the bottom of the prison population's pecking order and are treated harshly by fellow inmates.

"I certainly don't think he would fare well, given his age and his inexperience in the penal system, but also [because of] the nature of his offense," Hackner said.

In court, Hackner said Riva's lawyer, Todd Mohink, explained to him "the negative implications" of sending him to a state prison.

Judges sometimes spare defendants prison time — mostly those who are older or younger or sick or first-time offenders — when they think the defendants would be more vulnerable in prison than in a local jail.

Prison officials declined to comment on the case.

The two sentences, expected to result in a total of 36 months in the county jail, will equal about the same sentence as the four years in prison sought by Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Rogers, because of the difference in the way the two systems calculate time off for good behavior.

Riva also agreed to not allow the five months he's already been jailed to count toward his sentence.

A retired former owner of Burger King restaurants in upstate New York, Riva, the father of two school-age and two adult children, worked as a classroom aide at Crofton Meadows Elementary School from November 2009 until early June. He was also active in the PTA.

When allegations surfaced that he molested two girls, ages 7 and 8 — one of them perhaps 20 times — he was removed from his position, school officials said. The crimes were not linked to his job at the school.

Mohink, Riva's attorney, said that at the time of the incidents, Riva was depressed because he was separated from his wife and was the custodial parent for his children.

"I hope that someday I will be forgiven because I don't think I will be able to forgive myself," Riva said.

He pleaded guilty this month to a third-degree sex offense in this case and child sexual abuse in the other. He received a 10-year sentence Monday, with 81/2 years suspended, plus five years of supervised probation. He must register as a child sex offender.

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