BELFAST, Maine — After listening to hours of often-emotional testimony Tuesday afternoon, a Superior Court justice sentenced former Searsport music teacher William Wiley to serve 15 years in prison with all but three years suspended for sexually abusing a child.
Justice Ann Murray ruled that Wiley also will spend six years on probation upon his release.
But he walked freely out of the courthouse when the sentencing hearing was all over as the justice allowed him to be released on bail until his appeal is resolved. Defense attorney Steve Peterson estimated that may take nine months.
“I’m just going to do whatever I’m asked to do,” Wiley said outside the building, adding that he continues to maintain his innocence.
That’s simply not good enough, according to Waldo County Deputy District Attorney Eric Walker, who initially asked the court to sentence the former teacher to 18 years in prison with all but eight years suspended for sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl over a period of several months in 2004.
The girl and her mother lived in Wiley’s home at the time. He is not accused of molesting any of his students.
“It’s not what we were hoping for,” Walker said. “The biggest disappointment is that the defendant has been released. I have a lot of safety concerns … I was hoping he’d be on his way to [the Maine Correctional Center in] Windham tonight.”
After a three-day-long criminal trial in April, a jury unanimously found Wiley guilty on 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact against a child, but determined he was not guilty of the most serious offense: a charge of gross sexual assault.
Jurors heard testimony from Wiley, the victim and others who spoke about his good reputation in Searsport and dedication as a family man. They also watched and listened to Wiley’s 2 ½-hour-long initial police interview from April 2009 during which the extremely emotional and distraught man confessed to a detective that he had sexually abused the victim.
Wiley, who testified during the trial that he was sick that day and heavily medicated, is basing his appeal on the idea that the statement violated his Miranda rights.
His attorney had asked that he receive a totally suspended sentence but said after Tuesday’s hearing that Murray’s final decision was “very well reasoned.”
“This is not a case about a monster,” Peterson said during the hearing. “This is not about a teacher having sexual contact with a student … Mr. Wiley has promised [the court] that he will never let you down. In all the time since the charges, he’s never let anybody down.”
During the hearing, Murray heard from family members and friends who strongly support Wiley, some of whom do not believe that he could have sexually abused the victim. She also heard Walker read a letter from the now 20-year-old victim, who attended the hearing with family members and her boyfriend.
“I looked to William as my father,” the young woman wrote. “Once the abuse began, I became very confused about our relationship. He said I was beautiful, had a great body and ‘turned him on.’ At first this made me feel good. But I was tired of him coming around my room, sneaking around on my mom and other family members. Whenever he came into my room after I showered, I hid from him and told him ‘no.’”
She said that after the abuse ended, she dealt with years of fallout that included stress, a bad relationship with her mother, an eating disorder and trouble with boyfriends.
“My sexual life was ruined because of what William did to me,” she wrote.
Once she came forward about the sexual abuse, she was ostracized from many in her community.
“I didn’t feel good about it. It took me a while to realize I did the best thing for me and for everyone else,” she said. “He manipulated my family and me for over eight years. People may say he’s a great person. But they don’t know the William Wiley behind closed doors.”
Her mother and the victim’s boyfriend also read emotional impact letters during the sentencing hearing.
“A group of 12 jurors found him guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt,” the mother said to the justice. “Please honor their judgement by giving him the sentence he deserves.”
Wiley did not look back at the victim or her supporters during the hearing. But when his supporters came up to the podium to read their letters, he looked directly at them, sometimes with tears in his eyes. Over and over, they told the justice that he is a gentle, compassionate person who was a great teacher and a mentor. Two teenage girls stood up and said how his musical theater programs changed their lives for the better.
His sister Nancy Wiley Gilpatrick said that Wiley has lost his job, his profession, his home, his reputation and his family. He “lives for” his young son but is no longer allowed to spend time with him unsupervised, she said.
“Bill has nothing more to lose, except his freedom,” she said. “Is there any more that can be taken away from him? Is jail the answer? I don’t believe he’ll survive it. I really don’t … please allow Bill to go free to parent his son.”
Wiley also spoke at length, mostly about how much he loves and needs his son, although also about what he termed the “disaster” that befell his life when he was accused of sexual abuse.
“I am not a violent person,” he said. “I was a teacher. A very good teacher. And I worked extremely hard to provide the best education to my students. At no time were your children ever in danger. Your children were always safe with me.”
Under the terms of his sentence, Wiley will have to successfully complete a sex offender counseling program while he’s free on bail. He also cannot have contact with anyone under the age of 16 except his son and must comply with sex offender registration laws.