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Ex-LAUSD assistant principal pleads no contest to molestations, gets 8 years in prison [Updated]

August 27, 2009 | 10:31 am


Steven Thomas Rooney, a former assistant principal with the Los Angeles Unified School District pleaded no contest this morning to four counts of child molestation in a case that highlighted deficiencies in how school officials dealt with their problem employees.

[Corrected at 11:35 a.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly said Rooney pleaded guilty.]

Under a plea deal, Rooney will be sentenced Sept. 15 to eight years in state prison for charges that include three counts of lewd acts upon a child and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

Rooney, 40, originally was charged with more than a dozen felony molestation-related counts involving two students from Markham Middle School in Watts and a former Foshay Learning Center student. A fourth student, 15, later came forward to say she had been molested by Rooney.

All four students attended schools where he was an administrator and two of the victims were molested after being informed about a relationship he was having with a student.

The assistant principal was arrested last year on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old student, sparking public outrage and calls for reform when it was discovered that the LAPD told district officials in 2007 that Rooney was suspected of having had sex with a Foshay student.

After initially putting Rooney in a desk job at a non-school site, officials transferred him to Markham when prosecutors did not file charges. District policy requires that officials conduct an independent investigation of abuse allegations before allowing a teacher or administrator who has been accused of sexual misconduct to return to a school.

Compounding the problem, a Foshay dean, who was identified by authorities in court as "Mr. Hubbard," kept photos, notes and a scrapbook that documented the relationship between Rooney and the former Foshay student.

Rooney pleaded no contest to two counts of lewd acts upon a child age 14 to 15, one count to lewd acts upon a child under 14 and one count of unlawful sexual intercourse.

"Yes, I am madam," Rooney told the prosecutor when she asked if he was freely pleading.

Rooney, dressed in a black suit with black rimmed glasses, clasped his hands as he stood to enter his plea.

Asked by the prosecutor, Darci Lanphere, if he understood the plea would result in an eight-year prison sentence, Rooney replied, "Yes, madam." At one point, he told the prosecutor, "It is just I am little nervous."

[Corrected at 11:50 a.m.: A previous version of this post misspelled prosecutor Darci Lanphere's last name as Lamphere.]

-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Steven Thomas Rooney, center, at his court hearing today at which he pleaded no contest to four counts of child molestation.  Credit: Allen J. Schaben  / Los Angeles Times