Former teacher is sentenced for child sex abuse

September 07, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - A former Boonsboro Middle School social studies teacher who pleaded guilty in June to sexual child abuse was sentenced Wednesday to serve 10 years in prison with 5 1/2 years suspended.

Robert Merle Haines Jr., who taught at the school in the 1980s, was sentenced by Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell after an agreement was reached between attorneys from both sides.

Haines pleaded guilty to the charge for inappropriately touching the girl. He was 24 and a first-year teacher at the time of the assault.

Maryland State Police began an investigation into Haines' behavior in July 2005 after the victim contacted police. Charges were filed several months later.


The victim, now married and in her 30s, made a statement in court before Haines was sentenced. Sitting no more than five feet from the man she says took her innocence, she recalled the traumatic sexual abuse she suffered.

"I would never be the same again," she said.

She is not being identified because of the nature of the crime.

She described herself as humiliated, scared and broken. For years, she didn't trust men, even her own husband, the victim said. She suffered from anorexia and her weight dropped to about 80 pounds in the mid-1990s, she said, blaming the illness on the assault.

"It was wrong 23 years ago, and it's wrong now," the victim said of the abuse. "The pain will never (go away)."

While the woman, who said she is a survivor, not a victim, addressed the court, Haines sat motionless, his head bowed. Asked if he would like to say anything before sentencing, he stood, turned and looked at the victim.

"I'm so sorry ..." he said. "If I had one wish ... it would be to go back and erase that chapter."

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said during the sentencing that the incident was reported when it occurred, but officials at Boonsboro Middle School and at the Board of Education chose to cover up the incident. Officials investigated the girl's claims and Haines was allowed to resign, but no criminal charges were filed.

As a result of the charges against him 20 years after the assault, Haines said he'd lost his home and his career.

He described the period when he assaulted the victim as a horrible and difficult time in his life. Haines said his mother was dying, and he cited earlier abuse and neglect at the hands of his father.

Haines' sister, Lori Dagenhart, who lives in Washington County; a former business partner, Don Walters; and Haines' pastor, Burton Robinson of Woodbridge, Va., all spoke on his behalf.

Dagenhart said her family had suffered because of the incident and asked for a lenient sentence. The defense had been hoping Haines would be allowed to serve his sentence under house arrest.

As part of his sentence, Haines will serve three years of supervised probation when he is released from prison. He will be required to register as a child sex offender, seek psychiatric treatment and pay a $500 fine within six months of his release.

"You took the life (the victim) would have had and would have known as sure as a knife can cut away an organ of the body," McDowell said.

The victim said the sentence hadn't changed what happened to her, but it did offer some closure to 20 years of hurt and shame.

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