Ex-teacher gets year in Pr. William sex abuse

By Josh White and Jennifer Buske Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 29, 2010; B1

A former Osbourn High School teacher who has been linked to 30 years of sexual abuse and who admitted to sexually molesting a 16-year-old Manassas boy this year was sentenced Thursday to a year in the Prince William County jail.

In the first criminal sex case against Kevin Ricks, 50, the sentence amounts to a formality: Federal agents and local police are preparing to charge Ricks with numerous additional counts arising from a string of sexual abuse that dates to at least 1979. Because of time Ricks has served, he probably will be out of Prince William's custody by the end of the year.

Law enforcement officials say he then will be transferred to federal custody, and the extra time will allow them to prepare additional charges. He is charged in federal court in Alexandria with child pornography counts and in North Carolina with sexual abuse.

FBI agents and local police have linked Ricks, a career teacher and foreign exchange host, to sexual abuse of boys in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, several Western states and Japan. Federal and state prosecutors are lining up to file charges against Ricks, and law enforcement officials said they hope to put together prosecutions that would net decades of prison time.

Prince William Circuit Court Judge William D. Hamblen sentenced Ricks to five years in prison with all but one year suspended, giving a harsher sentence than was outlined in Virginia's guidelines. Those guidelines called for a maximum of three months in jail for the one count of indecent liberties with a minor, mainly because Ricks had never been convicted of a previous sex offense.

Hamblen said those guidelines "do not adequately take into account the breach of trust in this case." Virginia judges deviate from the guidelines only about 20 percent of the time.

'I am not a pedophile'

Ricks appeared in court wearing a light-blue collared shirt and was actively engaged in the 30-minute hearing, sometimes shaking his head and conferring with his lawyer.

He told Hamblen that he thinks he has been "completely mischaracterized" by police, prosecutors and the media and said he does not fully comprehend why the sexual contact with the boy happened. Ricks also denied previously going after boys.

"I am not a pedophile, and I never have been," Ricks told the court. "I am not a predator, and I never have been. I have never stalked anyone."

A Washington Post investigation has identified a dozen of Ricks's victims or people who thought they were being targeted across three decades. In interviews, they and others who know him say Ricks plied boys with gifts, attention and alcohol while working as a teacher, camp counselor and foreign exchange host.

In several cases, Ricks gave the boys copious amounts of tequila and abused them while they were passed out drunk or asleep; some were unaware they had been victimized until police or the FBI contacted them with evidence, The Post found.

Decades of Ricks's journal entries - writings that describe in detail his carefully plotted courtship of boys - have provided authorities with a road map. Paired with photographs and videos of the abuse that police found in Ricks's Federalsburg, Md., home, authorities think they have numerous solid cases and are working to identify victims around the globe.

In documents obtained by The Post, Ricks sometimes writes as if he is in love with the boys before going into graphic detail about the sex acts he performs on them. Other documents clearly show that even though school systems had suspicions about his behavior, they put nothing on his permanent record and allowed his contracts to expire, letting future employers hire him with no warnings.

'A good son'

Ricks's mother, Jean, testified that Ricks had a good upbringing and was an excellent teacher beloved by his students. She said she knew him only as "a good son," adding that if the accusations are true, she is praying for Ricks to get the help he needs and for anyone whom Ricks hurt.

"I thought I had the perfect family, but all that changed with one phone call," Jean Ricks said, crying. "I didn't know what heartbreak was until this. . . . Kevin obviously needs help, but he also did good things in his life."

Under cross-examination from Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert, Jean Ricks said that she knew nothing of the accusations that have surfaced until Ricks's arrest in February and that she learned much of her son's alleged history from reading the newspaper: "The Washington Post has trashed him. They filled in the blanks."

'He blamed the victim'

Ebert said that he thinks Ricks deserves to serve more time in jail because of his history of abuse but that he is confident that the federal system and others will ensure that Ricks faces serious consequences. As a result of the Manassas case, Ricks also had to register as a sex offender, ending his career as a teacher.

But Ebert said Ricks demonstrated in court that even in the face of the evidence he is unwilling to accept responsibility. Ricks told the judge that he and the victim had forgiven each other and that the victim played a role in what happened.

"He will not take the blame for what he's done," Ebert said. "He blamed the victim, one of the worst things that can happen in the criminal justice system."

Tim Olmstead, Ricks's attorney, said he is not representing Ricks on the federal charges and could not comment on future cases against his client. In court, Olmstead said that his client is not a predator and that he takes "full responsibility for what he has done."

"Mr. Ricks has a lot of good qualities. He is caring, intelligent and helpful. He has a lot to give, and he has a lot to overcome," Olmstead said. "His incarceration will end one day, and he's going to be left to deal with what he's done on his own."

February arrest

When Ricks was arrested in Manassas in February, it was the first time he was definitively linked to abusing an underage boy. In that case, Ricks abused a boy in December and January, performing sex acts while they watched movies and drank tequila over winter break. Ricks's Facebook messages to the boy, seen by one of the boy's friends, sparked a call to police.

Ricks was arrested as he left his Osbourn High English class in February, and he was found with a laptop that contained child pornography and a journal that described the boy's abuse, according to law enforcement officials and court documents.

The ensuing investigation and search of Ricks's home yielded thousands of pieces of evidence. Local prosecutors wanted to secure a conviction in Manassas so Ricks would be held long enough to pursue federal charges.

whitejswashpost.com buskej@washpost.com

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