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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Pasco band teacher gets 22 years for sex with student
He had rejected an offer of 15 years for having sex with a student.
By Molly Moorhead, Times Staff Writer
Published March 12, 2008
DADE CITY - At Tuesday's sentencing of Michael Aaron Black, the former Pasco Middle School band teacher accused of sex with a student, the prosecutor held up a code of conduct for all teachers.
It says in part, "a teacher shall not exploit a relationship with a student for personal gain or advantage."
Black, 28, faced a judge Tuesday for violating that code, and in turn, the laws of Florida.
He pleaded guilty in January to lewd and lascivious battery. Prosecutors said he started a sexual relationship with the girl when she was 13 and a seventh-grader in his music classes. The two had sex in the school's band room and in Black's Lakeland apartment.
It was an open plea, meaning Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa was not bound to any agreement between Black and prosecutors.
The judge sentenced him to 221/2 years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation. He also declared Black a sex offender.
"This is more of a crime of theft and destruction," Siracusa told him. "Mr. Black, you've destroyed things that can't be replaced.
"You stole from your profession. You destroyed some of the confidence that this community has in teachers, all so that you could use a student for recreational sex," he said.
Black faced up to 45 years if convicted at trial. He previously rejected a state offer of 15 years. He showed little reaction, sitting with his head down throughout the hearing.
He spoke in court before his sentence was handed down. A slight man with a soft voice wearing thin glasses, he talked in near-poetic words about integrity, character and the heart of a man.
"A heart that is not governed by the mind is in trouble," Black remembered his father, a preacher, telling him.
"I cannot justify my actions," he said. "I want desperately to say I am sorry."
He addressed his victim, who is now 15.
"No matter what happens to me today I do not want you to blame yourself. I will never think badly of you," he said. "For what I have caused you in pain and sadness and sorrow and loneliness and stress and anything less than happiness, I am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness."
Black, who still faces charges in Polk County, had previously been married and has two children.
Several family members and friends spoke of the kind, honorable teacher he was. How he connected with kids and devoted himself completely to a job he loved.
"Mr. Black's just a really awesome person," said one of his former students. "He was like a dad to me. If ever I needed to talk, he was there for me."
The victim spoke briefly, expressing only love for Black, and even hope that they might one day get married.
"The most I guess I can say is that I love him and I don't want him to get hurt," the teen said.
But then her mother took the witness stand and spoke of the horror of discovering, through cell phone records, her daughter's secret, and how that harmed their bond.
"My daughter saw this as an invasion of her privacy," the mother said.
"She's still not begun to come to terms with what's happened to her or even acknowledge that she's a victim."
The girl's father spoke next, frequently breaking down while speaking to Siracusa.
"My daughter," he said, "was the victim of the worst crime that can happen to a child."