Former St. Gregory the Great science teacher Scott Schaefer was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison Friday morning for sending indecent text messages to a 12-year-old girl.
The girl told State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski that after Schaefer's arrest she felt she had betrayed him and considered taking her own life. She started harming herself by cutting her arms and legs.
Her reason for speaking during the victim impact portion of the sentencing, she said, was so that "this doesn't happen to another girl."
Schaefer, 44, of Getzville, lowered his head while the girl spoke. He had previously pleaded guilty to disseminating indecent material to minors. During a two-day period last June when the Amherst school's academic year was ending, he sent her hundreds of text messages that included two pictures of himself.
In asking for the maximum prison sentence of four years, prosecutor Rosanne E. Johnson said it was necessary to send a stern message to others entrusted with society's "most precious commodity, our children."
Johnson, chief of the Erie County District Attorney's Special Victims Bureau, said Schaefer was unable to "potentially" escalate his behavior to "hands-on sexual abuse" because of the "prompt intervention" of the girl's mother, who after noticing the inappropriate text messages contacted Amherst police.
Following the sentencing, District Attorney John J. Flynn praised the child's mother for how she reacted after she discovered her daughter was getting texts late at night from Schaefer.
"No one should do this to a child. She looked up to him as one of her teachers and then he goes ahead and takes advantage of that. He sent her hundreds of texts including two photos of himself," said Flynn, who added the images were not explicit. "Parents need to be aware of who is texting their children."
The DA added that in no way should the girl feel she betrayed Schaefer.
"He is the predator in this case and she is the victim," Flynn said. "She should not feel bad at all."
When she spoke, two other young girls stood beside her to provide moral support. Several times in telling the judge what she has experienced, she had to pause, overcome with emotion.
Johnson described the girl as a brave survivor who was so traumatized by what happened that she required psychiatric care and was hospitalized for a week. Her family members, Johnson said, have also suffered collateral fallout.
"This has totally consumed her father. He has spent countless nights thinking how could he have helped his daughter," Johnson said. "He's now relying on the court."
In requesting a reasonable sentence "and not greater than necessary," defense attorney Daniel Henry said his client's behavior was completely out of character for him and that he immediately took responsibility for his actions and started in counseling.
"He asked me if he could send a letter of apology to the victim, and I said no. I directed the letter to the court," Henry said, adding Schaefer comes from a strong, supportive family and that many relatives were present in the courtroom.
When given the chance to speak, Schaefer first addressed the judge, saying, "I take total responsibility."
He then turned to the girl, who had returned to her seat, and said to her, "I'm sorry to you and your family."
Looking back at the judge, he said he wanted to atone for his actions and someday hopefully earn back the trust and faith he has lost.
Michalski described the fired teacher's behavior as egregious, particularly because of the victim's "tender age."
The judge also issued an order of protection barring Schaefer from any contact with the victim through Nov. 17, 2028.