Roberta Blackwell Walter, a former teacher at Beaumont Junior High School 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.
Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.