A former sixth-grade Los Angeles school teacher was sentenced Monday to 12 years in prison for sexually molesting four boys while they were alone with him in his classroom or at his West Los Angeles apartment.
Richard Howard Simons, 33, who taught for five years at Rowan Elementary School on the Eastside, was arrested in July, 1984, after the owner of a camera store in Brentwood reported that the teacher had brought in film for developing that showed an 11-year-old boy in sexually explicit poses.
Simons, who was originally charged with 11 felony charges, pleaded guilty to five counts on Jan. 13. The 12-year sentence was agreed to as part of a plea bargain, according to the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathleen Weast.
Simons' is the first of two pending cases against former teachers with the Los Angeles Unified School District to reach a conclusion. Terry Bartholome, who taught third grade at the 68th Street School in South-Central Los Angeles, is awaiting trial on molestation charges involving 15 children.
Weast said Simons will be eligible for parole in six years. Had the case gone to trial, she said, he might have faced a 28-year sentence.
At Monday's hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. W. Lew said Simons might be able to serve the last two years of his sentence at Atascadero State Hospital, provided the institution has room for him in its psychiatric program for sex offenders.
During the preliminary hearing, four boys--all but one of them pupils of Simons--testified that the teacher had befriended them by exchanging baseball cards with them, taking them to ballgames and giving them gifts. The crimes with which he was charged occurred between May 1, 1979, and June 22, 1984, when each of the victims was 11 or 12, Weast said.
In a statement filed with the court, Simons said he was "wholeheartedly sorry."
"I hope that it will be understood," he added, "that there was no malice in my past actions, but that my actions were instead the product of emotional illness."
Alan S. Goodman, a psychologist who has been treating Simons for 18 months, recommended leniency, saying in a letter to the court that the defendant was "among the hardest-working patients I have ever had the pleasure to work with" and "poses little danger to the community."
But in his sentencing report, probation officer Barry J. Nidorf said Simons "betrayed the trust of the community, his employer, the victims' parents and the victims with little, if any, regard for the consequences of these sexual acts."
School district spokeswoman Eva Hain said no policy changes resulted from the Simons case, because "we've always had a policy that tells teachers they need to have parental permission before they take youngsters anywhere outside of school, and we have always suggested to them that they take another adult along."
She said that with the resolution of the Simons case, Bartholome is the only remaining former teacher in the school district facing sex abuse charges.
Also facing criminal charges is Stuart Bernstein, a school district administrator, who is accused of failing to immediately alert authorities of the molestation allegations against Bartholome.
No such controversy has surrounded the Simons case. School district officials have said the charges did not surface until Simons was arrested.