A former Baltimore County high school teacher, who was accused of molesting a girl he met over the Internet in the parking lot of an Ellicott City church, was convicted yesterday of attempted rape and sexual offense charges.
A Howard County jury deliberated for less than 3 1/2 hours before returning guilty verdicts on two of three charges filed against 33-year-old Charles Levi Maxwell in the New Year's Day assault.
Maxwell, formerly of the Lutherville-Timonium area, was acquitted of a related child pornography charge.
He could be sentenced to a maximum 20 years on the most serious charge - attempted second-degree rape - at a hearing Oct. 9 in front of Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney.
As deputies led Maxwell from the room late yesterday afternoon, his mother and pregnant girlfriend sobbed uncontrollably. The girlfriend, who sat through the three-day trial, is due to give birth in December, family members said.
Maxwell's father, also named Charles Maxwell, said, "I don't feel justice has been done at all."
But prosecutors said they were heartened by the verdict, which comes after last week's guilty finding in the sexual child abuse and attempted rape trial of an Ellicott City ballet teacher.
"It's reassuring to know that children can be believed when they come forward and report that a crime has been committed against them," said Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy, who tried the case with fellow prosecutor Jim Dietrich.
The girl, who was just shy of her 14th birthday at the time of the incident, testified that she was bored and curious when she logged onto her mother's laptop computer Jan. 1 and immediately met a man using the screen name DeepEyes4U69. The Sun does not name victims of sexual assault.
The two decided to meet, and Maxwell later picked her up near her Ellicott City home, she testified Monday. They went to a nearby church parking lot where Maxwell molested her, she said.
Investigators had the girl, who later told her mother and best friend about the incident, go online twice more while they watched.
Police arrested Maxwell on Jan. 7 after he showed up for a second meeting with the teen-ager only to find a female police officer posing as the girl, according to testimony.
The girl may have made "poor choices" on New Year's Day, but she is still a child, Dietrich told jurors yesterday.
Children "can't be expected to make good choices in these situations, and the law is in place to protect them," Dietrich said during his closing argument.
"Charles Maxwell had the ability that day to make the right choice. He was the adult on that day. He was supposed to say no to [the girl]."
But Maxwell's lawyer, George Psoras Jr., argued that the girl's testimony was inconsistent and the police investigation incomplete.
While Maxwell admits he chatted with the girl online and met with her, the state offered no proof that he molested her, Psoras said in closing argument.
Prosecutors "want you to convict him because he's a schoolteacher and she's 13. That's not evidence," Psoras said. "Only two people know what happened in that car."
Maxwell, who was working as a business science teacher at Dundalk High School at the time of his arrest, is no longer employed by Baltimore County public schools because officials chose not to renew his contract, according to a school system spokesman.
Maxwell, who recently moved to Harrisburg, Pa., has since been offered a job teaching business and economics at a college there, Psoras said.
After yesterday's verdict, Psoras told Sweeney, who revoked Maxwell's $100,000 bond, that his client is "addicted to the Internet" but is in counseling.
Maxwell previously told investigators that he was lonely and depressed. Maxwell maintains that he is innocent, Psoras said.