LEXINGTON, Ky. — Roberta Blackwell Walter, a former junior high school teacher in Lexington, will spend a week in jail and 90 days in home incarceration for molesting two teenage students more than 30 years ago.
Walter, 63, who was initially charged in 2007 with third-degree sodomy and third-degree rape, pleaded guilty to two amended charges of sexual misconduct on Friday. The initial charges were felonies that carried penalties of one to five years in prison. Sexual misconduct is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty ranging from a fine to 12 months in jail.
Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael gave Walter, who now lives in Nashville, two 12-month conditionally probated sentences that are to be served concurrently. After spending seven days in the Fayette County jail, Walter will be in home incarceration in Lexington for 90 days, then will have 90 days of unsupervised probation. She will get no credit for the several days she spent in jail just after she was arrested.
"It doesn't pay for the crime at all," said Carol Lynne Maner, 47, one of the two victims who was molested in 1978 by Walter. The other victim was a male who was 14 at the time of the crime against him, said Madison County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Smith, special prosecutor in the case.
Maner, who was in court to hear the sentence, said it's important that a message be sent that crimes against children won't be tolerated in the community.
"It was a very chronic problem in Fayette County schools at that time," she said.
Smith had promised Walter a probated sentence in exchange for her testimony in another former Beaumont Junior High School teacher's trial on sex-related crimes. Walter, a former art teacher, testified against Jack Russell Hubbard, a former science teacher, who was convicted of raping and sodomizing Maner and Thomas "Beau" Goodman III. Hubbard was sentenced to 61/2 years in prison.
In late October, when Walter first went to court to be sentenced, Ishmael refused to accept Smith's punishment recommendation, which included no jail time. Walter changed her plea to the reduced charges to not guilty.
Maner was awarded $3.7 million by a Fayette Circuit Court jury in 2007 after she filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually abused by four teachers, a guidance counselor and an assistant principal at Beaumont Junior High School and Lafayette High School while she was a student in the 1970s and 1980s. The Fayette County Board of Education has asked the state Supreme Court to review the case.
Maner had talked about the teachers as her "lovers" for years until a friend asked her how she would have felt if the teachers had been abusing her son.
The first to come in contact were Walter, who was 32 and Roberta Blackwell then, and Hubbard, then 31.
During Hubbard's trial, Walter, who was Maner's eight- and ninth-grade art teacher, acknowledged molesting the girl. Walter said she had set herself up as a mentor and substitute mother figure when Maner's mother was diagnosed with manic-depression disorder.
Instead, Walter said she "fell very much in love" with Maner and began a sexual relationship with her.
"I realize (now) I was the adult, and she was the child," Walter told jurors. "I should have nipped it in the bud. I knew it was wrong."
The sexual relationship with Hubbard began later — apparently with Walter's encouragement.
A letter Blackwell wrote to Maner in 1978 was introduced as evidence and read by Maner. It included a reference to Hubbard and Maner's sexual relationship.
When Maner's mother asked the school board to look into the unusual activity surrounding her daughter, Maner testified that Hubbard and Blackwell told her to "put a stop to it" and that she lied to the principal. Shortly thereafter, Hubbard called Social Services, and Maner's mother was removed from the family home.
"It destroyed our family," Maner said.