Self-induced death-sentence

Facing prison, teacher kills himself

A 23-year-old Central Bucks substitute teacher who was facing at least 10 to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting two students committed suicide Saturday.

By LAURIE MASON
PhillyBurbs.com
9/25/2007 5:56:52 AM

Jeffrey Anderson, of Philadelphia, was scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Bucks County court in Doylestown for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and related charges.

He pleaded guilty last month to engaging in sex acts with two girls, ages 14 and 15, who were students at Tohickon Middle School in Doylestown Township.

The charges came to light in May after one victim's mother found e-mails from Anderson on her daughter's computer. Investigators later found postings from Anderson on Facebook.com in which he said “I can't believe I hooked up with two 9th-graders.”

Anderson's attorney, Sara Webster, said Anderson's family is devastated.

“This is a tragedy,” Webster said. “Jeff was immature and he used poor judgment in getting involved with girls who were willing participants. The sentence he was facing, at his age, seemed like a death sentence.”

Prosecutors noted that Anderson pleaded guilty.

“If he didn't believe he was being treated fairly, he should have asked for a trial,” said First Assistant District Attorney David Zellis.

“Mr. Anderson was an adult. Under the law, the girls could not consent. He was in a position of power and authority and he abused that power. Those girls' parents and the Central Bucks School District trusted him, and he violated that trust.”

Anderson used a small gas stove in an enclosed room to asphyxiate himself. He left a suicide note. The contents of the note were not released, but sources said he expressed remorse for the crimes in the letter.

Anderson had worked at Tohickon since 2005. He was fired from the school district when the allegations came to light, and also lost his post as a swim coach with the Warrington Swim Team, a community league.

Webster, who represents numerous sex offenders and has lectured on sex offender defense, said recent changes in state law increased mandatory minimums for crimes such as those Anderson faced. She said defense attorneys are closely watching proposed changes in federal laws that will also prompt stiffer sentences for sex crimes.

“I have to believe that these laws were not written with people like Jeff Anderson in mind, people who make one foolish mistake,” Webster said.

Anderson had been free on $500,000 bail while awaiting sentencing. Sentencing in sex offender cases are usually delayed at least three months while a state Megan's Law panel evaluates the defendant to determine if he or she meets the criteria of a sexually violent predator.

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