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Frederick County principal sentenced in sex case

January 09, 2002

Frederick County principal sentenced in sex case



By MARLO BARNHART
marlob@herald-mail.com


A former Frederick County elementary school principal charged last summer with solicitation of a male Hagerstown City Police officer for sex received probation before judgment Tuesday in Washington County District Court.

Philip Curt Harper Harper was fined $300 for offering $20 for sex with a man he met outside an adult book last July. In return for his guilty plea, Washington County prosecutors dropped a drug paraphernalia charge and placed a marijuana possession charge on the inactive docket.

Harper, 52, told District Judge Ralph France that he was sorry for his actions on July 22.

"I publicly apologize to my family, the Frederick County Board of Education and to my students," Harper said. "I'm sorry that the last time my students would see me would be in this way."

One day after his arrest Harper was placed on administrative leave with pay from his $81,275 position at Carroll Manor Elementary School in Adamstown, Md. He resigned Oct. 1.

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"Mr. Harper came into adulthood with a lot of baggage," said defense attorney Brad Bauhof of Westminster, Md. "In treatment for years, he's been a great husband and father but still had these problems."

Harper's wife of 27 years was not in court Tuesday. Describing her as supportive, Bauhof said she was in Ohio on business and had been stranded by bad weather.

Outside court, Bauhof declined to elaborate on the specifics of Harper's problems or treatment.

"I want to stress that he is not a threat to anyone," Bauhof said. "Nothing he has ever done even suggests he was ever a threat to children."

Harper would not comment following his hearing.

Part of France's sentence mandated continuing psychiatric counseling which must be verified to the court.

"You made a mistake ... an unlawful mistake," France said to Harper.

Harper had been employed by Frederick County schools since 1980 after eight years in education in Cumberland. He was an assistant principal at two elementary schools before becoming principal at Valley in 1984.

He became principal at Carroll Manor in 1988.

Bauhof said outside court Tuesday that Harper has been unemployed since Oct. 1.

"He was so close to retirement it has been difficult for him to secure employment," Bauhof said.

Harper was taken into custody July 22 at his then apartment at 122 Manor Drive, Apt. 3, in Hagerstown. He was released on personal recognizance shortly after his arrest, according to court records.

Harper was the second Frederick County school principal in nine months to acknowledge seeking sex on Hagerstown's streets.

On Feb. 28, police arrested William Louis Van Hall, 46, of 2820 Grandview Drive in Middletown, Md., charging him with agreeing to pay an undercover policewoman $30 for sex in the first block of Jonathan Street.

Van Hall, who was principal at Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, was removed from his $82,000-a-year position on March 9.

In May, France agreed to probation before judgment because of Van Hall's clear record. He also placed Van Hall on probation for one year and fined him $300.

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