NEW PORT RICHEY — Brian Michael Lane was a preschool teacher. Now he's a sexual predator.
Lane, 30, who worked at Sugar Plum First Class Preschool in Hudson, was arrested in June and accused of fondling a 4-year-old boy and performing a sex act on a 10-year-old boy. On Thursday in court he pleaded guilty to attempted capital sexual battery and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The hearing was long, strange and contentious.
It was on, off, on again. There was crying, yelling, pointing. The father of the 4-year-old victim got up in court and said Lane was a monster. Lane's mother got up and said that he wasn't. For all of it, the 4-year-old was in the courtroom, in the front row, kneeling, watching, wide-eyed.
Lane lived in New Port Richey and used to lead the choir at Bayonet Point Christian Church. He had no prior criminal record and passed all the required background checks when he was hired at Sugar Plum. He fondled the 4-year-old during nap time.
"For less than a minute," he told Pasco County sheriff's deputies.
Another allegation came the day he was arrested. That led to the charge involving the 10-year-old from Sugar Plum. Lane was friendly with the boy's parents.
On Thursday in court, Lane, slump-shouldered and soft-spoken, sat in the inmates' box wearing glasses, handcuffs and ankle chains. He told Circuit Judge Thane Covert he didn't want to take the 20-year deal.
This seemed unwise.
Did he want 20 years now or life in prison later? He had confessed to a crime that can come with life in prison. The deal was offered only because the families of the boys wanted the case to be over.
Public defenders Kemba Lewis and Susan Gardner talked to Lane. The quiet but intense conversations went on for a while. Lane finally reconsidered.
The father of the 4-year-old brought the boy because the boy's counselor thought seeing this would help. The Times is not naming the father to protect the identity of his son.
The father got up to read his statement. He said he was thankful that "our community will at least have one less monster to deal with."
He also said he was a former corrections officer and suggested that he knew what happened in prison to men who did bad things to small boys.
"I am ashamed to admit," he said to Lane, "that I find some satisfaction in knowing what you have to look forward to."
Then it was Lane's mother's turn.
Carmella Lane said her son was a good man, and that he was remorseful, and that he had repented. Her voice got louder the longer she spoke. She said that he wasn't a monster, and that he needed help, and help in his head, she said, not in the form of handcuffs.
"He's not an animal," she said.
She turned and pointed at the father of the 4-year-old.
"You might think he is," she said, "but he's not a monster."
Then Lane talked.
He said he was wrong. He said he was sorry. In the end, though, he turned toward the father of the 4-year-old and said he wasn't a monster.
"You know me," Lane said.
The man shook his head.
Lane's voice changed. It got a little more deep and a little less soft. He looked right at the man.
"You do," Lane said.
"You know me."
Michael Kruse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6244.