Sex-abusing teacher: 'I was very popular'

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 10:22 AM

Josh White

A former Manassas, Va., high school teacher who molested numerous boys in several states and overseas was sentenced Tuesday to an additional 20 years in prison for sexually abusing a foreign exchange student he hosted in Maryland.

Kevin Ricks, 52, is already serving a 25-year federal prison sentence stemming from child pornography he created to document his abuse of several boys he met as a camp counselor, teacher and foreign exchange host going back three decades. The Maryland case, involving a teenager Ricks hosted in his Federalsburg, Md., home during the 2003-04 school year, is the first in which Ricks has taken responsibility for sexual assault.

“There were numerous incidents of misbehavior,” Ricks said, his hands in cuffs and his slimmed-down frame draped in an orange jumpsuit. “I have to come to terms with it.”

Ricks, a longtime English teacher in several school districts, has been linked to victims dating to the 1970s, some of them young boys from broken homes he mentored and other boys in their late teens whom he plied with alcohol and molested after they passed out drunk. He gained the trust of the boys’ friends and families, at times creating elaborate relationships, before molesting them.

In a rambling and emotional statement Tuesday, Ricks apologized to his victims. But he also minimized the abuse, saying that he taught thousands of students and had episodes of inappropriate behavior only occasionally, calling the abuses “an exception, an aberration.”

“I was a very popular teacher,” Ricks said. “Now, I’m a cautionary tale.”

Ricks was the subject of a 2010 Washington Post investigative report that found that some sexual predators are able to move from one teaching job to the next over decades, navigating the nation’s public and private school systems undetected, evading traps designed to catch them.

Tuesday’s sentence, handed down in Caroline County Circuit Court in Denton, Md., means that Ricks will be behind bars well into his 80s and perhaps his early 90s. Judge Karen Murphy Jensen said that Ricks received a lenient sentence in federal court and that she did not have faith he would not offend again if released.

“I’m not showing you any mercy because it’s 100 percent justice” for the victim, she said.

The Maryland case is one of the most egregious police found. After Ricks was arrested in Manassas in 2010 amid allegations that he had abused an Osbourn High School student, police found evidence of other encounters with boys in his care, including thousands of photographs and journal entries. Among that evidence was material that documented the abuse of the exchange student from Germany.

That victim told The Post in 2010 that he was not aware of specific abuses but remembered a night when Ricks got him very drunk. Police later found evidence of the graphic abuse. The Post generally does not identify victims of sex crimes.

Caroline County State’s Attorney Jonathan Newell said in court that the teenager was incapable of fighting off Ricks because he was so drunk, noting that Ricks had a pattern of using “tequila nights” to incapacitate his victims and take pictures of him abusing them.

In a letter to the court, the victim wrote that the events have permanently affected him.

“That I was unconscious and did not notice what was happening to me does not make this deed any less despicable or more bearable to me,” the victim wrote. “I hope Mr. Ricks will never have the chance to abuse any kid or teenager in his life again.”

Ricks said his abuse of the boy was “by far the most reprehensible thing I have ever done,” but he also said: “I’m sure he knows I never meant to hurt him.”

Ricks is scheduled to return to a federal prison in Tucson, where he will serve a sentence scheduled to end in 2032. After that, prosecutors said, he will return to Maryland to begin serving his new 20-year sentence.

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