September 7, 2013

Crowd supports ex-teacher at his molestation sentencing

For the third time in the past two years, a large crowd showed up in a Sacramento courtroom on Friday to support a convicted child molester who they refused to believe was guilty.

For the third time in the past two years, a large crowd showed up in a Sacramento courtroom on Friday to support a convicted child molester who they refused to believe was guilty.

Forty friends and relatives of Shane Adair Vicars showed up in Judge Emily E. Vasquez's courtroom, and many of them dabbed their eyes and wept silently when she sentenced the 29-year-old former teacher at Sierra Oaks Elementary School to 26 years for child molestation.

A Sacramento Superior Court jury convicted Vicars in February on 13 counts of molesting two boys where he worked in the school's Discovery Club after-care program.

Vicars' backers wore stick-on tags Friday that said "I Support Shane." His crowd significantly surpassed the 20 or so supporters who showed up on behalf of the Rev. Uriel Ojeda on Aug. 2 when he was sentenced to eight years in prison for molesting a parish girl, and it was far larger than the dozen or so people who stuck with the Rev. Tommy Gene Daniels to the end before he was sentenced in March 2012 to 158 years to life in prison for molesting five girls in his Citrus Heights home.

None of Vicars' supporters agreed to be interviewed Friday about the jury's finding that he took little boys in the Sierra Oaks after-school program to secluded spots on campus, gave them candy and had them stick their hands in his pockets in search of a wallet that he said got stuck.

Deputy District Attorney Shauna Franklin said it amounted to "substantial sexual conduct," and that it wasn't just "one aberrant act," that it happened "over a long period of time involving lots of acts – so many that the boys couldn't recall."

But just as it was with Ojeda and his followers and Daniels and his supporters, the friends and family of Shane Vicars didn't believe it.

"Male teachers are targets for disgruntled parents and vindictive kids who can make accusations that are unfounded," the defendant's mother, Kitty Vicars of Carmichael, said in a letter to the judge.

In further proclaiming her son's innocence, Kitty Vicars said he is "a man of integrity and good character." As a mother, she said "it was hard to listen to the lies, inconsistencies and changes in stories from the accusers."

The defendant's father, Kurt Vicars, said "a horrible injustice was rendered" by the jury that convicted his son. He repeated the defense theory that the victims testified out of a "false memory" implanted in them by their parents.

Jurors returned their guilty verdicts on Feb. 8 in a retrial from last year. In the first trial, the prosecution put on a case with six alleged victims. Deputy DA Franklin pared it down to two the second time around.

None of the parents of the two victims attended the sentencing. Franklin read statements from the parents of one of the students, the father of whom ripped Vicars for his "sick" behavior.

"I'm also disgusted by Vicars' refusal to accept responsibility for what he has done and for dragging this ordeal out for almost four years," the father said. He said he moved his family into the Sierra Oaks neighborhood in the San Juan Unified School District specifically because of the school. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think our children were at risk at Sierra Oaks," the father said.

Franklin blasted Vicars for violating the trust of the entire school community.

"We have to leave our children in school sometimes," Franklin told the judge. "We have to leave our children in after-care programs sometimes. We have to trust that when they are at school and they are at those programs that they feel safe, and that they are safe. Mr. Vicars clearly violated the trust of those two boys. His violation of trust goes way beyond that."

According to a psychologist's report, Vicars was home-schooled after his junior year at El Camino High School because of his discomfort with "the negative social aspects" of the scene. The report said he worked at Vacation Bible School in his high school years as a child development assistant. He attended American River College and Trinity Bible College and planned to transfer to William Jessup University, the report said.

Vicars obtained a child development teacher permit, worked at Gold River Elementary School starting around 2003, transferred to Sierra Oaks around 2008 and was married in 2009, according to a letter to the court from his wife.

Judge Vasquez said she read 24 letters written by Vicars' friends and family pleading for leniency. "Consistently," the judge said, "they all expressed shock and confusion at the charges," as well as support for him.

"The letters submitted to me demonstrate to me you were a good man and instructor who lost his judgment in the most horrible way," Vasquez said. "You were hired by the school district to take care of these young students. Instead, I find that you took advantage of a position of trust and confidence to commit these sexual offenses. I find you betrayed your responsibility as an after-school instructor, and in the process you have done a great disservice to the profession."

The DA asked the judge to sentence Vicars to the maximum term of 32 years, while defense attorney Shannon Baker sought probation and a county jail term that would have had him released. Vasquez said she settled on the 26-year term because of Vicars' previous standing as a productive citizen and because of his lack of a prior criminal record.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

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