For the past week, national television networks have been jockeying to reserve space in Anne Arundel County's courthouse to cover the trial of Ronald W. Price, the former Northeast High School teacher charged with having sex with three of his students.
The trial starts today.
In fact, courthouse officials decided late last week to move the trial from the cramped courtroom where Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner usually presides to Courtroom One, the aging courthouse's biggest chamber, according Undersheriff Pat Ogle.
Mr. Price, 48, faces three counts of child abuse. He appeared on nationally televised talk shows after he was charged last spring and admitted that he had sex with the girls, a move that stunned criminal law experts.
Mr. Price, who said on television he has an unspecified illness, has entered insanity pleas to charges that he had sex with two of the girls, and a plea of not guilty to charges he abused the third.
Judge Lerner has ordered that the trial, expected to last three days, be held in two stages, so that the jury due to be selected today will be asked to decide Mr. Price's guilt or innocence first, then his sanity.
Judge Lerner also directed Anne Arundel County police Sgt. Robert Tice to appear in court today to respond to a defense request that prosecutors be prohibited from using notes Mr. Price typed into his home computer as evidence against him.
The notes were confiscated April 30 by Sergeant Tice when he took the computer while executing a search warrant of Mr. Price's home.
Jonathan S. Resnick, one of Mr. Price's two attorneys, said Mr. Price typed the notes at his direction to help prepare for his defense.
Mr. Price has signed an agreement with a Hollywood agent allowing the agent to peddle his life story as a script for a television movie, Mr. Resnick said.
The former social studies teacher, who remains under house arrest at his Brooklyn Park home, faces a maximum of 76 years in prison if convicted on all three counts of child abuse, all three counts of perverted practices and the single count of fourth-degree sex offense he faces.
Mr. Price is charged with having sexual relations with one victim between September 1982 and February 1984, another between March and November 1987 and the third between October 1991 and March 1993.
The relations occurred on school grounds during and after school when the victims were between 14 and 17 years old, according to charging documents.