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Former Pasco assistant principal get 35 years for child porn, sexual abuse

Kyle Ritsema was working at Cypress Creek Middle-High School in Wesley Chapel when he was linked to a child pornography investigation.
Kyle Ritsema is a former assistant principal for the Pasco County school district who admitted sexually abusing an underage boy and possessing pornographic images of hundreds of others. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
Kyle Ritsema is a former assistant principal for the Pasco County school district who admitted sexually abusing an underage boy and possessing pornographic images of hundreds of others. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
Published Nov. 5, 2019
Updated Nov. 6, 2019

TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced a former Pasco County assistant school principal to 35 years in prison Tuesday, capping a horrifying child sexual exploitation case that also ensnared a school transportation manager.

Kyle Dale Ritsema, 37, was also sentenced to a lifetime of supervision following his release, and must undergo sex offender treatment, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled.

Ritsema admitted in court to sexually abusing and possessing pornographic images of one teenage boy, but federal prosecutors believe he victimized others.

His penalty came shortly after it was revealed in court that he suffers from HIV and may have exposed others to the infection.

“I am incredibly ashamed of my behavior and I will carry that shame as long as I live,” Ritsema said. Clad in an orange jail shirt, he wept as he tried to explain that his actions were the result of a desire for acceptance and love.

“I don’t know completely why I did this,” he said. “I am anything but a monster.”

RELATED STORY: Federal prosecutor: Ex-Pasco school officials preyed on children

Ritsema was arrested in February 2018 after his name surfaced in an investigation of William Napolitano, a school bus manager for Pasco County.

Homeland Security agents had found hundreds of images of child pornography in Napolitano’s home and on his computer and phone, along with saved chats and text messages with other pedophiles. He was later sentenced to life in prison.

One of the people Napolitano chatted with was Ritsema, an assistant principal at Cypress Creek Middle-High School in Wesley Chapel. The pair traded stories about their shared interest in sexually abusing children, looked at child pornography, and boasted of their exploits with minors, prosecutors said.

When agents investigated further, they found evidence that Ritsema had met a 14-year-old boy through Grindr, a gay dating application. The boy was described in a sentencing memo as a troubled teen with mental health problems who lived with his grandparents.

Ritsema engaged in sexual activity with him five times over the course of a year, prosecutors said. During one encounter, Ritsema took pornographic pictures, which he later shared with Napolitano.

Although Ritsema was not charged with any other offenses, prosecutors said they identified at least two additional young boys he had tried to victimize.

RELATED STORY: Ex-Pasco school official gets life for child porn, sex abuse

One boy told investigators that Ritsema was his vice principal when he was in seventh or eighth grade, according to court records. The boy, who was gay, recalled that Ritsema once called him into his office to discuss coming out as gay, and shared some of his own story. In hindsight, the boy said, the conversation was inappropriate.

A few years later, Ritsema moved into the boy’s apartment complex. They occasionally ran into each other when taking out their trash or when Ritsema walked his dog. One day, the boy came across a Grindr profile that belonged to Ritsema.

Ritsema contacted the boy, asked if he was a virgin, explained that he was lonely and single, and invited him to visit his house to “cuddle.” The boy eventually blocked Ritsema from sending further messages, saying he found him “creepy,” and “stalker-like.”

The investigation turned up chats and text messages in which Ritsema engaged in what a prosecutor called a “campaign of child enticement.”

“This man is not a predator, he is a super predator,” said assistant U.S. attorney Francis Murray. “He was tasked with fostering young minds in our community and he instead corrupted them to feed his libido. ... He is more dangerous than your average pedophile because he is trained to relate to children.”

The sentence was less than the 80-year guideline range the prosecutor had sought, an option that defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand called draconian.

“Obviously he will never be a teacher again,” Brunvand said. “But I believe he can contribute to society.”

As Judge Scriven listened to defense arguments that Ritsema deserved as little as 15 years in prison, she questioned whether the defendant had truly acknowledged the harm he had caused. She referenced a portion of Ritsema’s statement, in which he said his troubles were the result of “five photographs” and some “disgusting conversations.”

“He never once references the rape of these boys,” the judge said. “He doesn’t mention the victims having been destroyed, having their virginity stolen.”

The defense attorney also noted that Ritsema takes medication for HIV, and the virus is undetectable in his body and unlikely to be transmitted.

Scriven asked, rhetorically, whether the boys Ritsema abused had a right to know about his HIV infection before engaging in sexual activity with him.

“He didn’t allow them that choice,” the judge said.

Ritsema began working for the Pasco County school district in 2006. He was a math teacher at Paul R. Smith Middle School, Gulf Highland Elementary School and Seven Springs Middle School, and an assistant principal at Pine View Middle School and River Ridge Middle School, before taking the job at Cypress Creek Middle-High School. He also worked between 2009 and 2013 for a YMCA.

Anyone who may have had sexual contact with Ritsema is asked to contact Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-347-2423.

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