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May 28, 2004

Teacher at school for deaf sentenced for sex with student

From: Providence Journal - Providence,RI,USA - May 28, 2004

(Please see this article: Austine counselor's conviction reversed)

The Associated Press

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) - A former teacher at the Austine School for the Deaf is headed to prison for nine to 24 years after being convicted of having sex with an underage student.

John Rehkop was taken into custody Thursday to begin three consecutive jail sentences - three to eight years for each count on which he was convicted of sexual assault on a minor.

Rehkop continues to maintain his innocence.

Deputy Windham County State's Attorney John Lavoie said he had hoped for a longer sentence, having argued that Rehkop - whose friends and relatives also maintain his innocence - could not be successfully treated as a sex offender.

"The defendant maintained his innocence and indicated that the jury erred in finding him guilty," Lavoie said. "He is a sex offender in denial ... no treatment can fix him if he says it never happened."

District Judge John Wesley determined that Rehkop would not be eligible for sex offender treatment at Springfield prison, a Corrections Department requirement for early release, until about two years from the end of his minimum sentence, and also that Rehkop would not be allowed into the program until he admitted responsibility from his actions.

Rehkop was convicted in January of forcing a 13-year-old student to perform oral sex on him three times over the course of two years in the late 1990s.

Because both defendant and victim are deaf it made proving a case that largely came down to his word against hers even more challenging.

"It's incredibly difficult to get a conviction in a case like this ... add to that the complications of the language barrier it is amazing we obtained a conviction," Lavoie said. "There is no doubt in my mind the jury verdict was correct."

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