WASHINGTON — A former Rockville High School teacher has pleaded guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who was one of his students in the 1980s.
As part of an agreement with Montgomery County, Maryland, prosecutors, Michael John Riley, now 64, entered the plea to one count of sex abuse of a minor Monday in Montgomery County Court and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for State’s Attorney John McCarthy, said police began an investigation into Riley in April.
Almost 30 years after the start of the relationship, Montgomery County police staged a telephone sting, in which Riley apologized to the victim.
Korionoff said prosecutors chose not to gamble at trial for a conviction that might have secured a longer sentence.
“Being able to get him to admit wrongdoing, and put him in some jail time, is better than attempting to bring a case that would be very difficult to make in court,” Korionoff told WTOP. “Physical evidence, any witnesses or other corroborating evidence generally fall by the wayside over decades.”
Riley’s defense attorney, John Kudel, told WTOP: “We’re disappointed, because we had asked the court for a fully suspended sentence.”
Kudel said Riley had apologized “numerous times through the years, and also in the courtroom,” as well as during the telephone sting that led to Riley being charged.
According to Kudel: “She was 17; he was 29. He had an inappropriate relationship with her. He was truly in love with her. They had made plans. They were even talking about getting married.”
His attorney said that in 1985, Riley met and later married his wife of 32 years.
Kudel said Riley and the woman had talked periodically over the years, and had met for coffee.
The lawyer said his client “had no reason to suspect” the long-ago relationship was being investigated as a criminal offense until after the telephone sting.
The woman was present in the courtroom, but chose to have her statement read by someone else, according to Kudel.
“She said her actions were influenced by the #MeToo movement,” in which women have been confronting men who they accuse of sexually harassing or assaulting them.
Riley retired from the Montgomery County school system in 2010, after 32 years as a teacher and athletic director.
Riley will not have to register as a sex offender, because of when the crime occurred, said Korionoff.
“Sex offender registries were not established until 1996, so the laws from the 1980s did not apply to that registry, and they are not retroactive,” Korionoff said.
Riley’s conviction, Korionoff said, would become more important if other victims present themselves, because it would show a pattern of criminal behavior.
Riley’s attorney said there are no other women.
“We told the state from the very beginning that she was the only person under the age of 18 that he had an intimate relationship with,” Kudel said.
Kudel said it was likely his client will serve a maximum of 60 days in jail, and he has asked that Riley serve his time in home confinement.
At the time of his arrest, Riley was the athletic director and head of summer programs at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville. School officials have said they have no reason to believe Riley engaged in any inappropriate conduct at the school.
The head of that school, Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, said that while they “have no reason to believe Mr. Riley engaged with inappropriate conduct at CESJDS, we continue to foster a culture in which students can freely express concerns to trusted adults and victims in general feel safe to share their concerns knowing they will be respected and taken seriously.”
The incident, Kudel said, will forever change his client’s life: “He will try to get employment, but it’s going to be very difficult with something like this on his record.”
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