Former-teacher's supporters ask for leniency

Veteran teacher Richard Booth's sexual conduct with a student was characterized by more than 70 letter writers as a moment's indiscretion and should not overshadow his nearly 30-year career.

That is the gist of the dozens of letters sent to District Judge Michael Gibbons by colleagues, former students, boyhood friends and associates from Booth's more than 20 years of service in the Nevada National Guard.

Booth, 56, is set for sentencing Monday before Gibbons on a felony charge of sexual conduct with a student.

The victim, who was 16 in January 2004 when the incident took place, has agreed to a recommendation that Booth be given probation and no jail time.

He was arrested in October 2004 after the girl told a friend about what took place between the two. Prosecutor Dina Salvucci and Booth's lawyer Tod Young have said the contact did not involve intercourse or oral sex.

Booth was on leave from the school district when the incident occurred and has since resigned after 28 years with the district as a teacher and coach.

The district attorney's office has agreed to ask for probation without jail time. Booth will be required to register as a felon, but not as a sex offender under the law.

The charge is considered a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Salvucci said Friday that she was unsure whether the victim would ask to speak at Booth's sentencing, but that she would represent the girl's interests.

Salvucci said in agreeing to probation, she and her client took into account that Booth had no prior criminal record and that he "takes a huge penalty by being convicted."

"A lot of times a case like this would have been plea-bargained," Salvucci said.

Diana Hollander, program officer for the Nevada Department of Education, said her office will seek revocation of Booth's teaching license when she has received the judgment of conviction, and the transcripts of his plea and sentencing.

"When his license is revoked, he can't teach in Nevada," she said. "The most important thing is that we report nationally. He can't go anywhere and teach there. Other states will know that an action has been taken."

Several letter writers said while they don't condone what Booth admitted, they felt the public airing of his offense was punishment enough and that he was truly remorseful.

Former student Kristine Burns Pennucci, now living in Phoenix, wrote Gibbons that she was flattered that Booth had asked her to write a letter on his behalf.

"I just wish that my words could portray what an impression he has and continues to make on my life. I am honored to call him coach, teacher, mentor and dear friend," Pennucci wrote.

Former Douglas High School Principal Charles Condron wrote that during his three-year tenure, he never received a complaint about Booth.

"On the contrary, over that time, many compliments regarding Rick's hard work and dedication for students were the norm," Condron wrote.

Washoe County Sheriff Dennis Balaam wrote that he and Booth grew up together in Yerington.

"Neither I nor any other mature adult can condone or excuse the conduct for which Rick stands before the court," Balaam wrote. "That said, I offer my personal opinion that I believe that the conduct was an isolated aberration wherein Rick did not maintain the good judgment and controlled emotions that have characterized his life prior to his fall from grace. I can also opine that such conduct is unlikely to be repeated in the future."

Douglas High government teacher Randy Green, who has known Booth for almost 30 years, said nothing would be served by incarceration for the offense.

"As a U.S. government teacher, I understand the function and use of prison better than most citizens. I see no benefit to society or the victim from the incarceration of Rick Booth," Green wrote. "Knowing Rick as I do, I can tell you his remorse is sincere and his confrontation of this event will be honest."

Sgt. Candice R. Hammond, a flight medic at Fort Carson, Colo., said as a woman, she was in a unique position in the military.

"On this deployment, while others may not have always treated me with the greatest respect, Mr. Booth was always kind and considerate."

Booth served in the National Guard for more than 20 years before he retired in December.


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