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November 22, 2017

Twenty Years for Whitmus


Justice takes time. On Monday it took almost eight hours to arrive at a punishment for the former Luther Band Director who chose to let an Oklahoma County District Judge sentence him rather than go to trial. The time since the investigation began into the affair between the 32-year-old teacher who admitted to finding his 12-year-old student sexually attractive: about two years. The time Kyle Whitmus spent in the Oklahoma County Jail: 17 months. The time of punishment for the teacher who took advantage of his 12-year-old student: 20 years in prison and 20 years of probation. Sentencing guidelines require that Whitmus serve 85% of the 20 years, about 17 years.

Kyle Whitmus was Luther’s band director for about six years. It was his first professional job after earning his music education degree, and later pursuing his master’s degree, and attending OU where he was a proud member of the Oklahoma Pride marching band.

Superintendent Barry Gunn, in the witness chair at Monday’s sentencing, confirmed he had once told Whitmus’ attorney Sam Talley that Whitmus had been the “best band director” the district ever had. The band was growing. Their sound was great. Obviously now, Talley allowed, he was the worst band teacher because of the criminal case.

That conversation occurred when Talley visited LPS to take a look at the band room area, the crime scene area where the victim told the Judge under oath that she and her teacher had stolen kisses, shared “little touches,” and eventually had sex one time.

Each time there was a court recess, deputies would escort Whitmus to the jail elevator while the media snapped pictures.

Whitmus denies having sex with the child; and the state dropped the most serious charge against him of first degree rape as part of the blind plea deal in May. He pleaded no contest to lewd acts with a minor. Indeed, the “no contest” part of the plea was an undercurrent throughout the day’s sentencing process. For the defense, the no contest argument was “he doesn’t admit to it,” and the state maintained that plea meant “he shows no remorse and accepts no responsibility.” Talley relentlessly objected throughout the day, claiming the proceeding amounted to a non-jury trial where allegations of Whitmus’ behavior, especially with other female students was mentioned, that were outside the scope of the charges to which his client was being sentenced.

Still, those in the courtroom heard testimony about a variety of incidents that some say should have caused serious red flags:

Per Gunn’s testimony: Whitmus was suspended from school for a couple of days in 2012 and given a Plan of Improvement. The reason, being alone with a student; driving with a student off-campus and having lunch with her. It was against policy. Also against policy, texting a student.

Per Whitmus’ estranged wife’s testimony: she tried to tell administrators, (including former Supt. Blessington), about the relationship with the student. It was the same year the couple separated, and later she learned Kyle and the student were in a relationship following her graduation. Through court testimony, it was eluded to that the relationship with the former student continued as he began texting with the victim in this case in late 2015. 

Per the victim’s mother and father’s testimony: their daughter, once a bright, happy social butterfly, was now withdrawn, is fearful of men in positions of power and has suffered the loss of friends and being shunned at school where students cruelly have called her “rape girl.” The mother told the court that she has had to miss work frequently to monitor her daughter when she wants to self-harm.

Per the victim’s counselor: began seeing the victim before the incident on referral from the school. The girl was described as being socially engaged, precocious and intelligent, and needed help with issues at home, and mild depression. She noted changes in the girl during the time of the affair with Whitmus whom she called her “teacher crush.” Since the relationship, the victim struggles with gender identity, self-harm tendencies, depression and anxiety. The counselor said she has no reason not to believe the victim has ever been dishonest.

Per the psychologist who evaluated Whitmus: Whitmus clearly has poor judgement and inappropriate boundaries. Whitmus regrets the negative impact this has had on his life and will struggle with his lost profession now that he is a sex offender. The psychologist said he is concerned about Whitmus’ predatory behavior with students and concerned it was not limited to one student. He said Whitmus noted his remorse that the “victim was hurt emotionally because he ended the relationship.”

Per Kyle Whitmus’ testimony: He answered, “No,” when asked if he was a victim in the case. ‘I know I hurt a lot of people. Words to express my sorrow for everything are hard to come by.” Later, prosecutor Gayland Gieger pressed Whitmus to go ahead and try to come up with the words. “I am very sorry … I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve gone through. I’m so sorry.” Whitmus also said he would like to seek “psychosexual treatment” to learn why he does this. Geiger asked whether Whitmus still denies having inappropriate physical contact with the victim. Whitmus said yes.

Per the victim’s testimony: Since the incident she has struggled. She is scared by men in positions of power. At Luther Middle School, she suffered bullying from students who called her “rape girl,” would write Mr. Whitmus’ name on white boards in class or on her desk in efforts to taunt; has been abandoned by her friends who are intimidated or disgusted by her, she said; has been called “whore,” “slut,” and “liar,” by fellow students. She said it makes her physically sick to see people mock and point at her, forcing her to miss a lot of school. At least once, she contemplated suicide by using sharp glass to cut her tendons. “The thought of him going free to hurt other children makes me furious.”

Whitmus’ defense emphasized a rehabilitative path to pursue treatment outside of prison walls, and the psychologist’s report that the likelihood of reoffending is low. After the sentencing, Sam Talley said they were disappointed in the 20 year prison sentence, but not surprised.

Before sentencing, Whitmus spoke one more time saying, “I believe my statement about remorse is wholeheartedly the truth. The fact that everyone has gone through so much, it hurts. My initial conversations with her, I had good intentions; but I let it go. In hindsight I should have made better choices, told administrators or counselors about the family strain. I regret and have remorse over what I’ve done to the school itself, my own children, the family. Apologies don’t go far enough, but I want to apologize to everyone,” said Whitmus.

At about 6pm, after most everyone in the courthouse had gone home for the day except for a handful of spectators including the victim and her family, Whitmus father and a friend, and several media; and Judge Glenn Jones began imposing the sentence.

He said he had read all of the case materials before sentencing day. From the bench, he patiently and attentively spent all Monday hearing witness statements, refereeing between the opposing attorneys, clarifying points of sentencing guidelines and other judicial matters, and even grabbing tissues from under his bench for various witnesses and the defendant.

His Honor then spoke. He lectured about the impact of a teacher in authority taking advantage of a minor child who could not make her own choices who reached out to him in trust. He said he was not looking at the case in an emotional way, but on the facts that are serious.

His sentence is 20 years on the charges of one count lewd acts with a minor child under sixteen, and two counts of soliciting sexual contact with a child via technology. He will also serve  20 years on probation. Sentencing guidelines demand that 85% of the sentence be served, 17 years.

The victim, her family and the prosecutor’s expressed they were pleased with the sentence. The defendant’s attorney said it was disappointing. An appeal can be considered over the next ten days.

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