LARGO — Former school resource officer Todd Pierce stood in the courtroom, turned to his victim and apologized to her, saying, "I am sorry for what you've had to go through. I can't begin to imagine what you've had to endure."
But he stopped short of admitting to the crimes he was convicted of — lewd and lascivious battery and lewd or lascivious molestation, including having sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Pinellas-Pasco Judge Timothy Peters sentenced Pierce to 10 years in prison and five years of sex offender probation.
Peters noted that Pierce, a former Pinellas sheriff's deputy and assistant high school football coach, appeared courteous, thoughtful, hard working and generally law abiding. But he added that "in our society, as well as most societies, you cannot lawfully have sex with children."
And Pierce's actions were even worse, because he held a position in school so important that "to say that person is a role model is a dramatic understatement." And he said the jury's actions were well justified by the evidence presented in court.
The sentencing for the 2001 crimes was an emotional one that featured statements of support from Pierce's sister, fellow coaches, two assistant principals at Countryside High School, his pastor and lifelong friends.
"My dad, he wouldn't be the type to disrespect anyone in that manner," said son Todd Pierce Jr., 16. He said the allegations against his father "just don't even match the character" that he has.
"I love you son," Pierce told him afterward.
"I love you too, Dad."
Pierce asked for leniency, saying he would do any kind of community service the judge ordered, without fail, and that he would not bother any children. "I can assure you that no one is in danger."
The fiance of the victim, whose name the St. Petersburg Times is withholding because of the nature of the allegations, told the court she accepted Pierce's apology.
The woman, now 23, had testified that Pierce fondled her in Osceola High in 2001 but that she told no one because "he knows how to manipulate you." Then, in September 2001, he came to her house when no one else was at home. Once inside, she said, he performed oral sex on her and they had intercourse.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.