By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun
9:16 PM EST, January 31, 2014
A former employee at the Maryland School for the Deaf was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison for sexually abusing two girls at the school.
Clarence Cepheus Taylor III, 38, showed no emotion as Howard County Circuit Judge William V. Tucker pronounced the sentence after a three-hour hearing. A young man seated in the spectator's gallery stood up quickly, shouted in protest and stormed out of the courtroom.
Taylor, who worked as a school aide, was found guilty in a jury trial in November of two counts of child sexual abuse for inappropriately touching a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl at the Columbia campus. The jury found him not guilty of one count and declared mistrials on four others. New trials are scheduled for May.
He is appealing the convictions.
Seven girls between 10 and 13 originally accused him of offenses occurring between 2008 and 2011.
Both girls Taylor was convicted of abusing spoke during the hearing, one in person, one through a video recording.
"When he started touching me it made me feel real low about myself," said the girl who spoke in the courtroom. After the assault, she said, she became very angry and tried to commit suicide.
"I felt like it was my fault," said the girl, 16, who was 12 when the assaults occurred.
The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault.
The maximum allowed penalty was 50 years on the two counts. The defense had argued for a brief suspended sentence; the prosecution argued for 20 years.
Taylor, who is hearing-impaired and was also a graduate of the school, received a sentence of 30 years on the two counts with all but seven years suspended, plus five years of supervised probation. He was ordered to have no contact with the victims, the trial witnesses or the school, where his wife works and where one of his four children is a student.
Founded in the 19th century, the public school offers classes from kindergarten through 12th grade to about 400 students on campuses in Columbia and Frederick.
On Friday, Taylor's defense lawyer, Brandon Mead, asked the judge to stay the sentence pending appeal, but Tucker declined.
"I was really hoping the judge would recognize the significant appellate issues," Mead said outside the courthouse, adding that he was confident the verdicts would be overturned on appeal.
In the event Taylor is eventually exonerated, Mead said, "you don't get those years back."
Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Broten declined to comment after the sentence was pronounced.
The mother of one of the girls Taylor was convicted of abusing said she was not satisfied with the sentence.
"I wish he would serve more time," she said. "I'm not happy about it but I accept it. … I really wanted him to get the 20 years."
In arguing for that sentence, Broten said the two girls were in an "especially vulnerable position." She said they were boarding students away from their families, with limited ability to communicate with their relatives because each was the only hearing-impaired person in her family.
"These aren't people who can just pick up a phone and call the police," Broten told the judge. She said Taylor had "violated these young girls' bodies. … He violated their trust. He violated them in their safe haven."
Six character witnesses spoke on Taylor's behalf, including his daughter and his wife, who is also hearing-impaired. They all testified to his character as a mentor, husband and father. Mead had argued during the trial that Taylor's actions were innocent displays of affection.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun