Ex-school teacher to serve at least 50 years in prison for sexually abusing, raping students


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ST. CROIX - It has been more than 18 months since former elementary school teacher Tydel John was convicted of 12 counts of child sex abuse, now, V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks has handed down a sentence that means he will likely die in prison.

John, 60, was charged with seven counts each of child abuse and unlawful sexual contact in addition to two counts of first-degree aggravated rape in connection with three different arrests since 2007. In September 2012, a Superior Court jury found him guilty on 12 of 16 counts of child sex abuse.

He had been arrested three times: Dec. 5, 2007; in April of 2008; and in August 2009.

Friday morning, he appeared before the court to be sentenced, dressed in his red, two-piece Bureau of Corrections prisoner's uniform with his hands bound in front of him. He spent most of the hearing looking through his bifocal glasses, paying full attention to the judge.

His attorney, Martial Webster, said he was troubled by the lack of medical evidence in the case and said that there was no physical proof that any of the allegations really took place.

"That to me is scary, that people could say what they want, and a man could sit here convicted," Webster said. "He is a humble, educated man, with a wife and four children."

Webster asked the court to impose a sentence that would be fair and fulfill the duties of punishment and rehabilitation for John - a punishment that would serve as a deterrent for others in the community to not engage in such activities. However, Webster also asked Willocks to be lenient with his client, noting that even with the minimum sentence John will be in jail for a long time.

John addressed the court with the same degree of confidence he did during the trial, loud, clear and deliberate with his words as a university professor would.

He said he has been found in a very precarious position, convicted of serious charges he is truly not guilty of.

"I want to appeal to you judge to use your powers of discretion to look at the facts from Dec. 3, 2007, to now," John said. "I've been a teacher since I was 14 years old and never got into trouble and that is why these testimonies alarmed me during the trial."

John said he has engaged in playful acts of friendship with many of his students, but he has never touched any and it is unthinkable that he would do so in the middle of the day, in the middle of class, with other students in the class.

"Give me a change for a second chance to prove that Tydel 'Bertie' John never did this and won't even be like that again," he said.

Assistant Attorney General Charlotte Poole Davis described Friday as a final day of reckoning for the six victims and the countless others who suffered at John's hands.

"The evidence is clear, these girls had no reason to lie," she said. "What happened in those schools came to light, those girls shared there traumatizing experiences and he stands here convicted."

Davis said with his habit of sexual abuse, John betrayed the trust of the students, the trust of their parents and the trust of the school administrators. He said it was an emotional struggled for the girls to come forward and go through the trial and relive those moments but they did and he has to pay.

She asked Willocks to sentence John to 10 years on each count of unlawful sexual contact convictions and 15 years on the aggravated rape charge.

Before imposing the sentence, Willocks told John he was not moved by his lack of remorse because he has the right to maintain his innocence, regardless of the facts.

"Only you, the good Lord and those victims know what happened," he said. "You have to search your conscience everyday and that is a sentence that is even more severe than any sentence that I could ever impose, you conscience is what will really be imprisoning you."

Willocks disagreed with both attorneys' recommendations, and sentenced John to 15 years for each of the six unlawful sexual contact convictions and a sentence of 50 years on the conviction of first-degree aggravated rape. He ordered that the sentences run concurrent.

Because the child abuse convictions came out of the same actions of the unlawful sexual contact, Willocks said the law prohibits him from sentencing John additionally on those counts, something Davis said her office plans to appeal.

John was also ordered to pay $75 court cost and to register as a sex offender if he is ever released from prison.

According to court documents that were filed by V.I. Police Detective Sgt. Naomi Joseph, in the first two arrests, John was charged with molesting girls between the ages of 8 and 13 as he taught at two different schools on St. Croix.

While on pre-trial release, he was arrested a third time and charged with touching a girl in a Frederiksted housing community. Since the report of that incident and his subsequent arrest, John's pre-trial release conditions were revoked and he had been in detention at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility.

Jurors found John guilty on all of the counts with the exception of the child abuse, unlawful sexual contact and aggravated rape involving a student at Good Hope School, whose parents had filed a lawsuit against the school and had come to a confidential settlement in District Court.

Jurors also found him not guilty on a count of unlawful sexual contact involving a 10-year-old girl who had testified that John touched her buttocks as he left an apartment in Mutual Homes while he was on pre-trial release after he was charged with the violation of the other girls at Evelyn Williams Elementary School.

During the trial, Willocks had granted a motion for dismissal on a single count of child abuse in connection with the incident involving that same girl.

During the course of almost three weeks of testimony, jurors heard from John's accusers, outreach specialists, a therapeutic specialist, hospital officials, school officials, a counselor from the V.I. Human Services Department, police detectives, police officers, former principals, two parents, former colleagues, former students, John's sister, his wife, a psychologist, a child psychologist and John, who took the stand as the final witness.

Following the sentencing Friday, Webster declined comment, but Davis - who had worked along with Detective Joseph since John's initial arrest - said it was a long time coming, adding that Joseph's investigation was carried out well and her hard work paid off.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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