By Josh White and Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 30, 2010; B01
Former Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks was able to lure vulnerable teenage boys into his life for 32 years, leading to secret, drunken sexual attacks while deftly ducking police and school administrators. His international trail of abuse came to a halt in a Virginia courtroom Thursday with a guilty plea that ended his teaching career.
Ricks, 50, acknowledged in Prince William County Circuit Court that he took indecent liberties with a 16-year-old boy who had been his student at Osbourn High School. The conviction means Ricks must register as a sex offender, and he could face as many as 10 years in prison at his sentencing Oct. 28.
But the state charges are just the beginning of the legal road for Ricks, who was charged this week in federal court with possession and transportation of child pornography. Federal authorities are investigating and could bring more charges in several jurisdictions. Authorities said they hope to ensure that Ricks is jailed for decades.
"I think the general public hopes that he's put behind bars for the rest of his life," Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said after the hearing. "He's been preying on people for a very long time."
At the hearing, Ricks, wearing a brown collared shirt and khaki pants with no belt, briefly answered questions from Circuit Court Judge William D. Hamblen. He repeated "Yes, your honor" several times and affirmed that he was guilty.
Manassas Detective David Abbott testified that police arrested Ricks shortly after learning of the abuse from a girl who read questionable Facebook messages between Ricks and the male victim relating to sexual episodes over the winter break. One of the incidents occurred Dec. 20, Ricks's 17th wedding anniversary.
When police arrested Ricks at Osbourn High in February, they confiscated his a laptop and a handwritten journal. The journal, an expensive leather-bound book with a scene from Venice on its cover, was like numerous others found in Ricks's home on Maryland's Eastern Shore that contained explicit details about his sexual encounters with boys.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Amy Ashworth provided Hamblen with a copy of Ricks's journal entry about the sexual contact with the boy. It was from Christmas Eve and detailed how Ricks gave tequila to the boy while watching a movie; Ricks described passionate kisses and wrote that it was the best 12 hours of his life.
After reading the entry to himself, Hamblen accepted the guilty plea. Although prosecutors agreed to recommend that Hamblen follow state sentencing guidelines -- which could call for time already served because Ricks has been in jail since February -- Hamblen said he does not have to follow the recommendation and could impose a longer sentence.
Ricks again asked to be released on bond, in part so he can contest his divorce in a hearing next month in Maryland. Hamblen ordered him held.
A federal detainer in relation to the new charges also has been placed on Ricks, meaning that he will move to federal custody when the state case is completed.
Abbott and federal authorities are continuing to investigate and are working to identify additional victims.
A Washington Post investigation, published Sunday, included interviews with six victims or their family members, and police think there could be a dozen or more victims spread across the globe. Ricks was a frequent foreign exchange host, taught in at least four states and spent seven years teaching in Japan.
Although Ricks's arrest initially sparked support from his students, who hailed him as one of their favorite teachers, the courtroom was relatively empty Thursday. Ricks's defense attorney said two of Ricks's family members were in the courtroom, but they declined to speak to reporters.
A friend of Ricks's parents, C.B. Owens, drove more than three hours from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., to offer moral support, although he has never met Ricks. He said the case has shocked his small community.
"I've taught school before, so it is hard to listen to this and to hear that someone would do that to kids," said Owens, who is a minister in the church Ricks's parents attend. "But I'll support him anyway. Right or wrong, he still needs to be supported."
Ebert described Ricks as a "very cunning" predator who endeared himself to people and was able to navigate the nation's public and private schools by deflecting accusations and getting school systems to just let him go when suspicions arose. Officials in the Manassas schools, for example, said they felt powerless to act after receiving warnings that he was stalking a boy in Fauquier County because Ricks had broken no laws.
"It doesn't speak well of a system that will let someone move from location to location and repeat this conduct," Ebert said. "There were plenty of red flags."
Manassas schools officials said that they wish Ricks had never been able to hurt anyone but that they were pleased that he was arrested.
"It just sickens me to read all of what this guy is accused of doing," said Tim J. Demeria, a member of the Manassas School Board. "It's too bad he wasn't caught 30 years ago -- it would have saved many people lots of pain and hardship. I'm grateful that the police here in Manassas were able to put him away."
Staff writer Michael Allison Chandler contributed to this report.