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Rooney sentenced for student sex abuse

September 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
An angry parent speaks out at the sentencing of a former assistant principal who sexually abused four female students. Steve Rooney wept and his body shook as he was sentenced to eight years in prison. Steve Rooney was originally charged with more than a dozen felony child-molestation counts. If he was convicted on all of them, he was looking at the possibility of being sentenced to state prison for the rest of his life.

But after his preliminary hearing, where the four young girls testified, that's when the plea deal began to be worked out. Eight years in state prison was what he was sentenced to and it's the deal the prosecution, the defense, the victim and their families can all live with.

Steve Rooney at times wept through his sentencing hearing. Before being sentenced though, the father of one of the victims spoke. Through an interpreter, he told the judge Rooney should pay for everything he has done.

"First, we have to think of the damage that has been done," said the parent through an interpreter. "He's ruined my daughter's life and other girls'."

According to the District Attorney's office, Rooney molested two 15-year-old girls at Foshay Learning Center. One was molested for two years, beginning in 2004. The other, for a two-year period beginning in 2005.

Rooney was later transferred by the Los Angeles Unified School District to Markham Middle School in Watts, where he molested two girls, ages 13 and 14, in early 2008.

Under a plea agreement, Rooney was sentenced to eight years in state prison and:

"You are to register with the police station having jurisdiction over your residence as a sex offender for the rest of your life," said L.A. County Superior Court Judge Marcelita Haynes.

Rooney pleaded "no contest" to three acts of lewd contact with a minor and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

"With consultations with people in my office and with the victims and their families, we all decided this was an appropriate resolution that brought justice and responsibility to the defendant, while saving the victims the ordeal of another trial," said prosecutor Darci Lanphere.

"Once the District Attorney reviewed the facts, reviewed some of the background of Mr. Rooney, reviewed other similar cases, our office and their office reached what we feel is a just and fair resolution to give something to the victims in this case, and Mr. Rooney must pay a price for what he did," said Rooney's attorney, Dimitry Gorin.

Rooney was also fined $5,000. As he was led out of court he mouthed, "I love you" to his father, who was sitting in the courtroom.

Now Rooney will begin serving his eight-year sentence. It should be noted that three of the four victims in this case have lawyers and are suing the L.A. Unified School District.

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