Former Westhampton Beach Middle School gym teacher Thomas Sheppard appeared in court Wednesday morning to plead guilty to using his cellphone to secretly record seven female students in the girls changing their clothes in the locker room last winter.
Sheppard, a resident of Speonk, has been suspended without pay since his arrest last March, and is currently free on $25,000 bail. He had submitted guilty pleas for all charges, including one felony count of second-degree unlawful surveillance and seven misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child—one for each of the girls who were either 13 or 14 years old, according to The Southampton Press.
He is expected to serve five years of probation for the felony count, and three years of probation for the misdemeanors, which will run concurrently after he is sentenced in December. Sheppard will also have his teaching license revoked, and he will be forced to register as a sex offender for at least the next 20 years.
Though Sheppard and Brill previously tried to contact prosecutors to negotiate a plea deal since Sheppard’s arrest in the spring, he entered a guilty plea and was required to admit that he had planted his cellphone in the locker room with the recording feature on with the intent to film the girls while they changed.
“He didn’t want to put the families and the victims through anything else,” said Sheppard’s attorney, Peter Brill. “He didn’t want to further embarrass his school community, and he thought this was the best way to go for those reasons. The fact that he did a lot of good in his career as a teacher should not be overshadowed by this one admittedly, incredibly stupid action.”
Sheppard submitted a letter of resignation to the Westhampton Beach School District superintendent on Monday.
[Source: The Southampton Press]