Former teacher James Parks of Southampton gets 15 to 18 years in prison for raping child



Last modified: Friday, February 20, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — In a barely audible voice, a teenage girl cried Wednesday as she told a Hampshire Superior Court judge that being raped by James L. Parks of Southampton when she was younger than 15 left her feeling guilty, ashamed and worthless.

“Daily, I have flashbacks of these things and wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares of this,” the young woman said. “Why did you do this to me?”

Parks, 56, had no visible reaction when she spoke or when the jury foreman announced that he was guilty of all charges against him — three counts of rape of a child aggravated by age difference, three counts of indecent assault and battery of a child under 14, three counts of indecent assault and battery of a child 14 or over, and one count each of attempting to commit a crime, posing a child in the nude and distributing obscene material to a minor.

Judge Mary-Lou Rup sentenced Parks to between 15 and 18 years in state prison on the rape charges, followed by 10 years probation on the remaining charges, during which he is prohibited from unsupervised contact with children under 16. He also must not live with anyone under 16, take any position that would put him into contact with anyone under 16, and he must have no contact with the victim.

Rup said she considered that Parks, a former science teacher at West Springfield Middle School, had no criminal record, but imposed a sentence higher than the mandatory minimum of 10 years because “he clearly took advantage of a very young, very vulnerable child,” to her detriment.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Linda Pisano urged Rup to sentence Parks to between 25 and 30 years in state prison, followed by 15 years of probation.

Defense attorney Jared Olanoff of Springfield asked the judge to impose the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and 10 years probation, arguing that Parks is remorseful. Olanoff said his client’s depression, from which he has suffered since a botched back surgery in 2006 that left him with limited use of his arms and legs, caused him to commit the crimes.

Parks was found guilty of indecently touching the girl on repeated occasions and raping her, beginning when she was 12. He also videotaped her without her knowledge when she was naked and showed her pornography.

Before Rup sentenced Parks, the victim, who is a minor, tearfully said the assaults led her to become addicted to drugs and that she sought “harder drugs” to make herself feel better. She said she has been in drug treatment for the last year, and has learned to love herself again and to stop resenting Parks.

“I forgive you,” she said. “But that said, forgiving you does not mean it is OK.”

She asked for a 15-to-20-year sentence for Parks, saying she wanted him to “get help and be safe.”

After court, Pisano said she was satisfied with the sentence, although it was below her recommendation. “I think the victim in this case was amazingly strong and brave to go in there,” Pisano said outside the courtroom. “I’m grateful to the jury.”

Parks had maintained throughout the trial that he never raped or videotaped the girl, though he admitted that he touched her over her clothes and underwear and showed her pornography.

Before sentencing, Pisano argued that Parks should get a severe sentence because he took advantage of the girl, manipulated her, and assaulted her twice a week for several years.

“If ever there was a case to go well beyond the sentencing guidelines, I suggest this is that case,” Pisano said.

She said Parks attempted to stop the girl from reporting the crimes by telling her that if she did, his family would fall apart, he would lose his job, and he would kill himself before he went to prison. Parks resigned from his job after his arrest on June 21, 2013.

The victim was not a student at the school. The Gazette as a matter of policy does not identify the victims of sexual crimes.

When the girl disclosed the abuse to a friend when she was 15, Parks told his wife he was going to kill himself. Several days later, he did try to kill himself, but police intervened after he was found bleeding in his car in Westhampton, along with a suicide note apologizing to his family and cursing the girl.

Pisano said Parks blamed the teen for the way his life fell apart after the allegations were revealed.

“He told her it would be her fault,” Pisano said. “That is a guilt that follows her to this day as she sits in this courtroom, that all of this is her fault.”

After the sentencing, court officers led Parks from the courtroom. Some of the victim’s family members embraced Pisano and each other.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.


 


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