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Piano teacher sentenced for abuse
Early Edition: Barton A. George pleaded guilty to fondling three young students.
By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published February 12, 2007
TAMPA — The young girl’s voice barely broke a whisper.
“He made me think about a lot of things I didn’t want to think about,” she told the judge. “He made me feel awful.”
Barton A. George, the music teacher hired to teach her scales and chords and theory, had just pleaded guilty to fondling her and two other former students.
George, 54, was supposed to stand trial Monday and faced a life sentence if convicted.
Instead he took a plea offer that will put him behind bars into his 70s and deem him a sexual predator.
He didn’t apologize to the young girls standing just feet away.
They once had sat for private piano or guitar lessons at his home in the Countryside Village mobile home park in Tampa. Each girl would be playing an instrument or filling out a worksheet when the touching began, prosecutor Kimberly Hindman said.
At first, George rubbed their backs through their shirts. Then he moved under their clothing and touched private areas.
The girls’ mothers sat one room away during all the incidents, which occurred between September 2004 and October 2005.
“He was so callous,” Hindman said, “that he did it with them right in the other room.”
The girls started making up excuses to skip lessons. Two students, both 10, quit altogether and told their parents what had happened.
Authorities arrested George in October 2005 for lewd and lascivious molestation. Curiosity led him to touch the girls, he told deputies, and he didn’t mean to hurt them.
He said he had taught hundreds of students during his 33-year teaching career and never before had problems. A third girl came forward when she learned George was out of jail on bail on the initial charges. The 9-year-old’s accusations were even more severe, and authorities charged George with capital sexual battery last year.
None of George’s male students reported abuse, Hindman said.
Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe sentenced him to 25 years in prison and 20 years of sex offender probation. George also could face involuntary civil commitment after completing his prison term.
The teacher’s last-minute decision meant his former students did not have to testify to a jury of strangers. But the abuse had already taken its toll.
One little girl can’t go near a piano without remembering.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified February 12, 2007, 16:24:42]
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