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Former Band Teacher Gets 12 Years For Sex With Students

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Stephen Orland (Kane County State's Attorney)

Stephen Orland (Kane County State’s Attorney)

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ST. CHARLES, Ill. (CBS) — A former band teacher at West Aurora High School has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual misconduct with two students.

Stephen Orland, 42, of North Aurora, was defiant and unapologetic as he was hauled away in handcuffs after Kane County Judge Allen Anderson pronounced his sentence, the Aurora Beacon-News reports.

Orland was charged last year with 27 counts, including battery, sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Prosecutors said Orland, who knew the girls since they were freshmen at West Aurora High School, sent them thousands of texts and dropped notes and letters in their lockers during school. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he arranged to meet the girls in a band storage room on separate occasions, where he abused them.

He was caught when another teacher opened the storage room door and found Orland with one of the girls.

As part of the agreement, the other charges against Orland were dropped, including allegations that one sex act was performed in a minivan on a side street near West High after a band concert, according to court records.

The indictment alleged the encounters were consensual but that the students’ age and Orland’s position of authority made the contact illegal. The victims were 17 during the initial sexual contact, police said.

Prosecutors said Orland, who knew the girls since they were freshmen at West Aurora High School, sent them thousands of texts and dropped notes and letters in their lockers during school. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he arranged to meet the girls in a band storage room on separate occasions, where he abused them.

He was caught when another teacher opened the storage room door and found Orland with one of the girls.

After agreeing to the plea deal, Orland read from a lengthy statement entitled, “For that I am grateful.” The statement listed Orland’s many accomplishments as a teacher and band director.

He also thanked the family and friends who have supported him — including dozens who gathered in the courtroom Friday.

After each section, Orland repeated the phrase “for that, I am grateful,” as if it were a refrain from a musical composition. At no point in the statement did he apologize for his actions or the victims. He did admit Friday was a difficult day and he was experiencing a “wide range” of emotions.

Orland listed off accomplishments from almost two decades teaching in the West Aurora School District, including serving on a Positive Behavior Intervention committee. He highlighted the influence he has had on hundreds of students. He said his binders of thank-you notes are proof that he has made a difference to many young musicians.

“The band room was the second home and that’s what it was: a safe place to be,” he said.

Orland said it was “such a joy to lend a hand” in various community activities, including coaching baseball and serving on the PTA.

He said his latest experience has brought him closer to God. “God is walking with me and my family through this,” Orland said.

Orland lamented the time he will be away from his three children. He called it “ironic” that he will be away from his children during a time when he was most qualified to mentor them and coach their musical development.

But Judge Anderson did not seem to share Orland’s assessment of his career. Anderson said that while Orland may have helped many students, his other actions have serious consequences.

“You have disgraced your profession and you have weakened the trust parents have in the educational system,” Anderson said. “You cannot undo the damage you have done to your victims in this case.”

After the hearing, Orland’s attorney said the former teacher does regret his actions.

“He’s sorry for the entire matter, for the entire incident,” attorney Phillip Nathe said. “It may not have come across in his statement, but he’s very sorry.”

In December, prosecutors released the content of several salacious text messages Orland sent to the students.

In all, Orland exchanged nearly 47,000 texts with his two accusers, the Daily Herald reported. He also sent one alleged victim cards and notes to her home and her school locker, saying he wanted to spend more time with her, the Daily Herald reported.

Some of the text messages sent by Orland also contained sexual language, authorities said.

In January of last year, while on a band trip to Peoria, Orland sent one of the girls text messages to the effect of “I want to kiss you right now” and “I want you now,” authorities said. Also on that trip, according to the Daily Herald, a girl had a problem with her instrument and came to Orland’s hotel room, where he made sexual advances.

No sex acts occurred during the trip, but court documents say Orland took a picture of himself with the girl in bed, the Daily Herald reported. He was sharing the hotel room with another male teacher who was not present at the time, the newspaper reported.

On another occasion, Orland was caught by a janitor hugging a blonde-haired student in the band storage room, which led to Orland being prohibited from being alone with any female at the school, the Daily Herald reported.

In May 2011, after the investigation began, Orland met with one of the girl’s friends. During that meeting, he said, “We cannot let the girls testify against me,” authorities said.

At unspecified times, Orland told one of the girls “if (she) really loved him, she would not testify” and also commented his “life would be over” if the girls testified.

Orland offered to pay for musical instruments and tutors, while reassuring “each victim that their relationships would not be discovered,” authorities said.

Orland was sentenced to six years for abusing one girl and another six years for abusing the other. The sentences will have to be served consecutively. He can receive day-for-day credit, meaning he could serve as little as six years in prison.

Orland will also have to register as a sex offender for life.

The Aurora Beacon-News contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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