WASHINGTON — A former D.C. schoolteacher was sentenced Friday to 11 years and 10 months in prison after he admitted to sexually abusing four middle-school students.
In court records prosecutors said Robert Leach “skillfully wove a web of deceit which ensnarled children and adults alike.”
Prosecutors said between 2010 and 2013, Leach, 33, of Silver Spring, groomed and then abused the seventh- and eighth-grade girls while he was a math teacher at Meridian Public Charter school in D.C.
Prosecutors said Leach would contact the students he targeted inside and outside of class and “adapted to their lingo” in conversations to gain their trust. In some cases, according to court records, he convinced them to send nude photos of themselves.
The abuse, which varied for each of the four victims, started during Leach’s first year of teaching. It included kissing in school stairwells, sexual touching in Leach’s classroom, solicitation and receipt of nude photos, and sexual intercourse.
With one victim, Leach would pick her up from school and drive her to his apartment in Maryland or to secluded parts of D.C., where he sexually abused her dozens of times.
He also would celebrate anniversaries with the girl, give her a “promise ring” and promise they would be married when she became of legal age.
At one point according to prosecutors the first victim’s mother caught Leach leaving her house and threatened to call the police, but Leach convinced her not to by threatening to harm himself. The abuse allegedly continued until the parent of one of the other victims found out the child was being abused and reported it to police.
Leach, a U.S. citizen, fled the country in 2013 the same day he was caught and confronted by one of the victims’ parents. He bought a plane ticket with cash and fled first to the Cayman Islands and then to Cuba.
He briefly returned to the U.S. and romantically communicated with one of his victims before leaving again to teach in the United Arab Emirates.
Through promises that they would once be together, prosecutors said Leach also contacted his first victim, expressing his love for her so she would destroy evidence, keep him updated on the investigation and mislead investigators, which at first she did.
In court, the victim, now an adult, said that she regrets being “blinded by that pervert” and that she will never be able to forgive him for what he did to her and the other girls.
She told the judge about how what she described as play fighting with Leach would later turn into what she thought at the time was a relationship with the “man of my dreams.”
“I regret everything,” she said before asking the judge to put Leach away for a very long time.
Prosecutors also believe Leach didn’t only manipulate children but also adults, including several women who had feelings for him.
Of those women, a former fellow teacher at the D.C. school Laurren Ebony Walker, who pleaded guilty to perjury in June — lying to investigators about being in contact with Leach and knowing where he was while he was evading authorities. She is awaiting sentencing.
Walker also denied giving Leach access to her car, even though one of the victims testified that Leach sexually abused her in that car.
During his time on the run, Leach worked as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates, got married and had a child.
He was eventually arrested in the United Kingdom in 2015 and was extradited to the U.S. last January after fighting extradition.
When given a chance to speak before sentencing, Leach delivered a tearful statement in which he apologized to the victims, their families and his family for what he put them through.
“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I just don’t want them to blame themselves,” Leach said.
He also tried to convince the judge he is not the man he was years ago; and he is now a devout Muslim, and God has changed his life.
Leach pleaded guilty in June to first- and second-degree child sexual abuse and sexual performance of a minor.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Milton Lee said Leach was a person who looked for opportunities in which he could take advantage.
After his time in prison, Leach will be under supervised release for 25 years and have to register as a sexual offender.
WTOP’s Lisa Weiner and Madeleine Simon contributed to this report.