Common Pleas Judge Craig Trebilcock's caseload includes everything from robbery and arson to homicide, but the case about which he has thought the most over the past six months involved two misdemeanors and former teacher Kimberly Jo Larkin, he said Monday during the woman's sentencing.
Trebilcock handed down an unexpected sentence, ordering her to serve 6 to 12 months in York County Prison, calling her actions "despicable" and saying she's "a huge discredit" to her profession. People like her are the reason, he said, that "good teachers" can't hug a child who's suffering.
In April, Larkin was acquitted of institutional sexual assault against a male former student. Institutional sexual assault is a third-degree felony that requires some sort of institutional relationship between defendant and victim, such as teacher and student, or prison guard and inmate.
Larkin didn't dispute having sex with the teen, but she maintained the relationship began after the then 16-year-old was no longer her student at Paradise School for Boys. The young man, now 18, testified he and Larkin, now 41, first had sexual intercourse prior to his permanently leaving the residential school on June 4, 2010.
Monday's sentencing was for two misdemeanors of which she was found guilty: a corruption of minors conviction that bans her from teaching for the rest of her life, and a conviction for furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Deputy prosecutor Lauren Carella requested only five years' probation, and defense attorney Terrence McGowan said he expected Larkin would receive a probationary sentence. Larkin was given a year of probation for the alcohol-related conviction and granted a month to find somewhere for her children to live before reporting to jail.
The judge said his hangup was with the "disconnect" between the upstanding woman presented in court and the actions she admitted performing.
Larkin testified in April that she had sex with the boy five times in July 2010, when the teen was no longer her student.
She said she wanted to help the boy, whom she described as "very lost," and on June 5, 2010 - the day after he left Paradise School - she drove him to fast-food restaurants to help him apply for jobs.
She admitted the teen drank alcohol, which she'd bought on at least one occasion, but said he "helped himself" to it and she didn't furnish it to him.
The relationship ended after she learned he was texting a girl; Larkin became jealous and broke up with him, she said.
The teen maintained he broke up with Larkin, but Larkin said it was he who wouldn't take no for an answer.
While he threatened to tell school officials about the affair, Larkin had a male friend pose as a private detective to call the teen to scare him, suggesting that Larkin could claim rape, she testified in April.
In court Monday, a sobbing Larkin said fallout from the relationship has been the worst experience of her life, saying the boy also manipulated her, but "I know this is all my fault."
She said she has had to move from Gettysburg to Maryland because she couldn't go out without "people staring at you like you're some kind of devil." She has two children, a 16-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, who still live at home, she said.
She told the judge she can't eat or sleep and relies heavily on anxiety medication to get through each day.
While Trebilcock acknowledged a statement from the victim stating his life hasn't suffered as a result of the incident, the judge said he disagrees.
Larkin had a chance to steer the boy, who had been in foster care, away from unfortunate life patterns that plague foster children, the judge said. Instead, she took alcohol to meet him at hotels that were "basically flop houses" and taught him to deceive, he said.
Larkin declined to comment about her sentence. McGowan, her attorney, said the judge obviously had strong feelings in the case, and he's unlikely to appeal because he admitted in his closing that his client performed the crimes of which she was convicted.
Larkin worked for Lincoln Intermediate Unit No. 12 for nearly a decade and was suspended without pay after the allegations came to light, an LIU official said. Larkin said she subsequently resigned.
Under probation, she will be subject to standard sexual offender probation conditions, which include sex-offender counseling and having no contact with minors, Carella said.
Christina Kauffman can also be reached at email@example.com.