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Ex-assistant principal gets eight years in prison for molesting students

September 15, 2009 | 12:16 pm

 A former assistant principal who Los Angeles Unified School District officials knew was under suspicion of having sex with a student but was transferred to another campus where he found more victims, was sentenced to eight years in prison today for sexually abusing four minors.

Rooney Steve Thomas Rooney sat handcuffed in jail clothing with his head down and shook as the sentence was handed down. Some of his teenage female victims sat a few yards away.

"He should pay for everything he has done to our families," a father of one of the victim told the judge before sentencing. "He has ruined my daughter's life and other girls'."

Rooney, 40, last month pleaded no contest to molesting three teenage girls and having unlawful sex with a fourth minor.

Judge Marcelita V. Haynes refused to allow him to wear civilian clothing at the sentencing. She said sheriff's officials reported that Rooney had become "a high security risk" in jail and was classified at a dangerous inmate level because he was "breaking the rules and fighting."

Rooney's father stated in an e-mail sent before the sentencing that his son had been beaten in jail.

The 40-year-old was convicted of having sex with a student when she was 15 to 17 and molesting a second girl at Foshay Learning Center before being transferred to Markham Middle School in Watts, where he molested two more girls. The girls ranged from 13 to 15 years in age.

The case came to highlight serious deficiencies in how the Los Angeles Unified School District handled problem employees.

Rooney’s attorney, Dmitry Gorin, said "while on bail Mr. Rooney completed extensive counseling and treatment, learning to avoid compulsive conduct that led to his arrest." Gorin said Rooney "is very remorseful about his conduct."

Rooney, originally charged with 14 felony molestation violations related to the four girls, will have to register as a violent sex offender and serve at least 85% of his eight-year sentence.

-- Richard Winton

Photo: Steve Thomas Rooney in Superior Court today, where he was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing four minors.
Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times