FARMINGTON — A former North Layton Junior High School science teacher was sentenced to at least 45 days in jail Friday after pleading no contest to childabuse charges earlier this year.
Second District Judge Darwin C. Hansen sentenced James Kenneth McQuade, 62, and ordered him to pay $650 in fines. The third-degree felony child-abuse charge can carry a prison term of zero to five years and a $5,000 fine. Before the judge issued the sentence, the mother of one of the victims spoke about how the abuse has affected her daughter.
"My daughter is not the same," she said. "The day she walked out from that event was life-altering for her." She said her daughter has required intense psychiatric counseling and medical attention since the incident.
"This was not a friendly gesture. It was a senior man in a position of authority taking advantage of a girl who was alone in a classroom and who was very vulnerable at the time," she said. She asked that the court consider at least a two-year prison term because she said it has taken at least that for her daughter to regain some normalcy in her life, even though she still initially recoils upon physical contact. The initial charge included one first-degree felony count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, filed in February 2004. In June, McQuade accepted a plea bargain to a reduced charge of child abuse.
The charge stems from an incident in December 2002 when McQuade was accused of touching a 12-year-old student inappropriately. The student reported the incident to school officials, but she did not take it to police until later. It wasn't until police spoke with two other students who had similar experiences with McQuade that charges were filed in 2004.
The Utah Office of Education revoked McQuade's teaching license that same year after he had voluntarily taken a leave of absence from the school, where he had been teaching since 1988.
McQuade said Friday that the process has been "life altering" and "painful" for him. He said he pleaded no contest to avoid a possible conviction and a stiffer sentence.
"I accept responsibility for my plea of no contest for child abuse and accept whatever sentence is appropriate," he said before Hansen delivered the sentence. He thanked the judge for "considering the evidence or lack of evidence" in his case.
Defense attorney Blake Nakamura argued that the school's primary investigation of the incident was not included in the police reports, making evidence "inconsistent." He said they accepted the plea bargain because the current charge would not make McQuade a sex offender and was completely expungeable from his record.
"There are no guarantees what a jury might do," Nakamura said.
Davis County Deputy Attorney Troy Rawlings said that despite "perceived inconsistencies" with evidence, prosecution would still "have a fighting chance." He said he offered the agreement in order to keep the victims, who are children, off the witness stand.
"It was recklessly causing emotional harm to a child," Rawlings said.
The prosecution offered no recommendation for jail time, yet the pre-sentencing report recommended the 45-day sentence, which the judge agreed was "fair."
"Mr. McQuade's conduct was inappropriate by touching a student or students and being intimate enough to massage the shoulders . . . and to the extent that it caused at least one child to be highly offended," Hansen said.
McQuade was immediately taken into custody. He is scheduled to appear in juvenile court for monetary matters later this month.