Declaring that he hoped to deter “others who may have this kind of conduct in mind,” a judge Thursday imposed the maximum 44-year prison sentence on former schoolteacher Terry E. Bartholome for lewd acts and molestation involving 13 of his female third-graders at a South-Central Los Angeles public school.
Bartholome, 49, stood quietly while the sentence was meted out, but earlier he burst into tears while telling Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Fred Woods he felt “great remorse” for having masturbated on two occasions in front of his 68th Street School students--the only crimes to which he has admitted.
”. . . I’m very sorry for my lack of control and lack of professional behavior in this particular small instance of my life,” Bartholome said amid sobs.
Bartholome was convicted July 1 of committing 19 felonies and 11 misdemeanors from November, 1983, to December, 1984. His case led to the prosecution of school administrator Stuart N. Bernstein, who was convicted last month of breaking a law that requires school officials to report allegations of child abuse to police within 36 hours.
In a handwritten letter submitted to the court, Bartholome blamed his conviction on “very intimidating and slanderous investigative methods,” on the children’s desire to be involved in something seen to be of “monumental importance,” and on “parental pressure” arising from a $110-million civil lawsuit filed against the school system on behalf of the children.
In the past, he has said the children aroused him by their curiosity about sex and by acting in physically aggressive and provocative ways.
His attorney, Sherwin C. Edelberg, told the judge Thursday: “There are still grave doubts, at least in my mind, as to whether the defendant ever touched anybody.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Rita A. Stapleton, one of the prosecutors in the case, responded angrily that Bartholome had touched his young victims in “ugly, repugnant, disgusting ways” and “may have set back the emotional development of these children for many years.”
“This wasn’t the man on the street. This was their teacher,” Stapleton said.
Parents of four of the child witnesses spoke at the hearing. They described various adverse reactions, including bad dreams, failing grades, reluctance to go to school and fear of men.
“I don’t think it should happen to an 8-year-old mind,” the father of one victim said.
Also appearing at the hearing was Patricia Bartholome, the defendant’s wife of 28 years. In tears she said she was “afraid (her husband) won’t live to get out if he’s put in state prison.”
Bartholome reported to the psychiatrist who examined him in jail that he had been attacked in the County Jail on six separate occasions.
In a letter filed with the court, the psychiatrist, Dr. William Vicary, said Bartholome suffers from “a chronic underlying mental illness” and as a child was several times the victim of child molestation, beginning at age 16.
According to court documents, Bartholome played ice hockey professionally, as his father had, and also played baseball with a Detroit farm team before becoming a teacher. In the late 1970s, he left teaching to open an ice rink in the Conejo Valley but was forced to return to the classroom when that business failed.
Bartholome, who served in the military, was seen by an Army psychiatrist in Tacoma, Wash., for two months in 1962, after he was arrested for exposing himself to two nurses, court documents showed. No charges were filed in that case.
Complaints about Bartholome first surfaced in June, 1982, while he was teaching at the 107th Street School. The next December, he was transferred to 68th Street School, where it took more than a year for allegations about him to be reported to police.
Bernstein, 49, the regional administrator who oversaw personnel matters at the school, was sentenced Monday to three years’ probation and ordered to do 400 hours of community service.