By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A teenager who says he was sexually abused at an exclusive Connecticut boarding school by a former dean of students was stunned and upset when the educator took a plea deal this week calling for a 91/2-year prison sentence, the teen’s lawyer said Wednesday.
The ex-student’s lawyer, Robert Reardon, said his client had expected Robert Reinhardt to serve decades behind bars for abusing him and three other students at The Gunnery school in Washington, Conn.
“We were shocked that the agreed sentence was so substantially less,” Reardon said.
Reardon said his client was sexually assaulted by Reinhardt more than 70 times when he was 13 years old, during the 2007-2008 school year. He said his client has dropped out of high school and is now living at home and getting counseling.
“He was devastated by what happened to him and continues to suffer on a daily basis,” Reardon said.
Reinhardt pleaded guilty Tuesday in Litchfield Superior Court to three counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of risk of injury to a minor. He pleaded under the Alford doctrine, meaning he doesn’t agree with all the allegations but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction.
Sentencing is set for June 17. After the prison time, Reinhardt would be placed on probation for 30 years and have to register as a sex offender, under the plea deal that was offered by Judge Charles Gill.
Gill didn’t immediately return a phone message Wednesday.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Terri Sonnemann said the other three victims in the case were not thrilled with the plea bargain, but they have accepted it because it spares them from having to testify in public at a trial about the awful things that happened to them. She said she had proposed a longer prison sentence, but wouldn’t elaborate.
“I think it serves the interests of justice when you consider all the facts and circumstances of this case,” Sonnemann said. “By Reinhardt entering a plea, it is a certain conviction. There is no possibility of a jury coming back with a not guilty verdict.”
Reinhardt’s attorney, William Dow III, said the plea deal “minimizes the pain for all involved because the complaintants don’t have to testify.”
Dow said Reinhardt still insists on his innocence, but he took the plea deal because he didn’t want to risk the possibility of a jury convicting him and a judge sentencing him to a much longer prison term.
Reinhardt, 46, who remains free on bail, had faced up to 60 years in prison under the original charges. He resigned from the school in June 2009 after the allegations surfaced and was arrested two months later. He now lives in Telford, Pa., about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. He had been on the faculty at the school since 1996 and was named dean in 2006.
The Gunnery, a residential school in the rolling hills of western Connecticut, was founded in 1850 by outdoorsman and abolitionist Frederick William Gunn. There are 270 students this year at the school, which costs more than $40,000 per year for boarding students.
Civil lawsuits accuse Reinhardt of abusing the students at his on-campus residence.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)