Judge sentences ex-Tampa Day School principal to 10 years for sex assault

James J. Larkin, 64, ex-principal at Tampa Day School, admitted to abusing two boys.
James J. Larkin, 64, ex-principal at Tampa Day School, admitted to abusing two boys.
Published May 1, 2015

TAMPA — James J. Larkin, a former Tampa Day School principal, was sentenced Thursday to a 10-year prison term as part of a plea deal in which he admitted to sexually abusing two adolescent boys.

For more than 30 years, Larkin's reputation was that of a beloved private school leader. From 1978 to 2009, he was headmaster at St. John Greek Orthodox Day School in South Tampa, a position he left to helm the Tampa Day School. The school fired him last year after a 14-year-old boy, a student at Tampa Day, accused Larkin, 64, of molesting him one night while the principal was acting as a stand-in babysitter.

The publicity surrounding that allegation prompted a man in his mid 40s to contact law enforcement about a similar incident he said occurred when he was 10 years old.

Although Larkin's lawyer initially vowed to fight the charges against his client, the former principal pleaded guilty to one count of lewd molestation and one count of attempted sexual battery.

As part of the agreement reached with Hillsborough prosecutors, after he has completed his prison sentence — at which point, he will likely be in his mid 70s — Larkin will face 10 years of probation and will spend the rest of his life as a registered sex offender. Under Florida law, he will not be allowed live within 1,000 feet of a school, child care facility or other places where children congregate.

Although Thursday's hearing brought a conclusion to the criminal cases against him, Larkin's legal troubles may not end there.

The family of the 14-year-old victim has hired a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who specializes in sex abuse cases to file a civil lawsuit against Larkin, in which they intend to seek compensation for pain and suffering.

"Now that this process is completed, and it's clear that these allegations occurred, we're ready to move forward with a suit," lawyer Adam Horowitz said.

In a statement released shortly after the hearing, David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, suggested that there may be more victims of abuse by the former principal, as well as school employees who may have covered for him.

Larkin's lawyer did not respond to a reporter's request for comment.

The incident that led to Larkin's arrest took place in March 2014, when the former principal was looking after the 14-year-old boy while his mother was away for a weekend. The boy's father was dead, and Larkin had stepped in as a surrogate parent.

According to law enforcement, late one evening Larkin entered the boy's room, lay down next to him, and put his hands down the boy's pants. Later, in a recorded phone call, Larkin admitted to the boy's allegations.

Several months later, after Larkin had been arrested, a man called law enforcement officials with a strikingly similar story from the 1980s. He said that he also had been molested by Larkin, who was babysitting him at the time.