A Jefferson County band teacher convicted of taking “down-shirt and up-skirt” photos and videos of his students was sentenced last week to two …
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A Jefferson County band teacher convicted of taking “down-shirt and up-skirt” photos and videos of his students was sentenced last week to two years of work-release jail and 15 years of monitored probation as a registered sex offender.
The teacher, Matthew James Taylor, 39, was arrested in April of last year after some of his students at D’Evelyn High School took their suspicions about his activity to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
The group of girls brought photographic evidence of Taylor’s actions, which was later used by prosecutors.
“He fractured a community, betrayed everyone’s trust,” said Christine Southcott, mother of one of the girls who reported Taylor.
According to investigators, Taylor had been using a camera phone to take inappropriate photos of students for years, holding his phone at odd angles while standing over students.
During testimony, one student described standing on a chair to conduct a band, while Taylor sat in a chair beside her, with his phone pointed upwards.
Several victims gave statements to the court, sometimes tearfully.
All of them stated they had thought of Taylor as a good friend and a trusted teacher until the evidence against him emerged.
The investigation resulted in Taylor being charged for filming 27 victims, with evidence of as many as 20 additional victims being found. He pleaded guilty to felony sexual exploitation and misdemeanor harassment
Prosecutor Alison Connaughty said it would be impossible to know if Taylor’s many acts of student engagement were motivated out of real caring or his sexual urges.
“He would still be at that school victimizing children if it wasn’t for the intelligence and courage of the girls who caught him,” Connaughty said.
Judge Christopher Zenisek said the breaking of the trust between a teacher and his students was “an extremely aggravating circumstance” in determining a sentence.
Zenisek’s sentence matched what was recommended in the plea agreement between Taylor and the District Attorney’s Office.
The judge said the lengthy 15-year probation sentence would do more to rehabilitate Taylor and to protect society than a shorter prison sentence would have.
Taylor declined his opportunity to address the court and was taken into custody on the spot.
After the sentencing, many of the D’Evelyn students who had sat in the courtroom cheered and hugged.
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