HAYWARD, Calif. — A Superior Court judge who said the defendant was in denial sentenced a Pleasanton elementary schoolteacher to 14 years in prison for sexually molesting seven students and two foster children.
Fairlands Elementary School teacher Neil Shumate has consistently denied the allegations, saying he touched or hugged the children, but did not molest them.
Alameda Superior Court Judge John F. Kraetzer was not convinced and scolded Shumate during Friday's hearing.
"It galls me that you stand in front of the press, parents and anyone else and remain in complete, utter and total denial. I only wish your supporters could have had all the information I have," Kraetzer said.
The judge said he had read hundreds of letters from foes and supporters, but noted that there were other incidents that did not come out during the trial.
"What came forward in the trial is only the tip of the iceberg," Kraetzer said.
Shumate was convicted Feb. 6 on 16 counts of lewd conduct with the children.
He will be formally sentenced June 14. A new state Supreme Court ruling allows judges to announce a tentative ruling, then give the defense a chance to offer more evidence that could reduce the sentence.
Shumate's trial has bitterly divided the Pleasanton community, 60 miles east of San Francisco. Some have said that the accusations were lies, while others called Shumate a pedophile.
"I was a foster kid, and nothing ever happened," said a tearful Derek Clark, 24, a former foster child who lived with the Shumate family for 17 years.
During Friday's hearing, Shumate gave a 25-minute statement to the judge and his students' parents.
"If I had in any way done anything to any children that could possibly be construed as inappropriate, I'm terribly, terribly sorry. I do not believe I did, nor would I. I loved your children," he said.
Alameda County Deputy Dist.Atty. Jill Hiatt said she was satisfied with the sentence but was appalled by Shumate's comments.
"I don't think he was in the same courtroom as I was," Hiatt said.