A former teacher at an Annapolis Christian school has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexually abusing one of his students -- the first of four students he is charged with abusing.
Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner presided over an emotional sentencing hearing Friday for Mark A. Nichols, where the victim and his parents described the impact of the crime.
Nichols, 29, a former sixth-grade teacher at the Annapolis Area Christian School, repeatedly fondled the victim, now a 17-year-old senior at another high school, over a three-year period while he was in grades seven through 10.
The victim read a statement he had written in a spiral-ringed notebook that described how Nichols took advantage of him.
He said Nichols befriended him when he was searching for a friend to fill the sense of loss he experienced with the death of his grandmother in 1985.
Nichols spotted that vulnerability, gave the boy special treatment, and used his position as an authority figure to make sure the boy told no one of the abuse when it started, the victim said.
"He took advantage of a kid who was in search of a friend," the victim said. "He is a manipulator and a very selfish man and he needs to go to jail."
The abuse occurred both in the teacher's former home, in the 1600 block of Veterans Highway, Gambrills, and in Nichols' sixth-grade classroom where the victim was an aide, according to testimony.
The boy decided to come forward last year when he was with his brother at a school function, heard a teen-age girl talk about being raped and started to cry.
Judge Lerner told Nichols, "These parents put their trust in you and you just betrayed them, really."
In addition to prison time, Judge Lerner ordered Nichols to never again take a job in the education field, to undergo psychiatric counseling, pay counseling costs for the victim and his family and perform 150 hours of community service.
Nichols said he is coming to realize now that he "must have done something wrong," but could not fully appreciate, nor admit the offense.
"I know something must have happened, and I'd be willing to seek any treatment that's made available to me," he said.
Nichols had left the Annapolis school and was working as a substitute teacher in Columbia, S.C., when he was arrested in June, said his attorney, Richard Drury.
Assistant State's Attorney Robert Bittman said Nichols also has been charged in three child sexual abuse cases involving other students at the school that occurred about five years ago and have yet to come to trial.
No trial dates have been set yet, he said.