Ex-teacher gets 1-15 for affair with student
By Jay M. Grossman
Her voice wavered, but the words were loud and clear.
“Because of Dennis Carter, I feel cheated out of life,” the victim told the court. “Every day is a struggle, like I’m running uphill.”
The former Seaholm High student read from a prepared statement at Carter’s sentencing before Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot on Tuesday.
Carter, 53, a longtime teacher and swim coach at Seaholm, will serve 1-15 years in prison under a plea bargain agreement in which he admitted guilt to having a sexual relationship with the victim that started in 2003.
At the time, the victim was a 16-year-old senior at Seaholm. Michigan law prohibits teachers from starting a relationship with a student until the student reaches 18 years old.
She waited more than two years before reporting the incident to Birmingham police. Criminal charges were filed against Carter in 2006 and he resigned from the district in March.
Now a 19-year-old college student, she spoke publicly about the case for the first time Tuesday.
She was a 13-year-old freshman at Seaholm and member of the school’s swim team when she first met Carter. Looking back, she said it’s clear that Carter tried from the start to cultivate a personal relationship with her.
They began meeting secretly in August of 2003. Investigators say the two agreed to rendezvous at Royal Oak Memorial Park near 13 Mile and Woodward, where they would then drive off to a more discreet location in Carter’s mini-van.
To keep their meetings a secret, Carter bought a cell phone for her and a plastic cover to conceal the license plate number of her car.
“I was so young, how was I supposed to know what he was capable of,” she told the court. “Dennis made me lie to my family. He isolated me from my mother, the one person who could have helped me the most ... he bashed my dad and brainwashed me into thinking things that weren’t true.”
The relationship continued through most of her senior year at Seaholm, before she decided to break it off.
She said she spent a year in therapy and required anti-depressant medication to help erase the memories.
“Not one part of me is left untouched,” she said. “I’ll never be the same, I’ll never be the girl I was before. He made my hometown one of the most uncomfortable place on earth.”
She also told the court of the personal price she paid for getting involved with Carter.
“You can only lose you virginity once, yet I feel my loss of innocence every day,” she said. “It’s an event I was suppose to choose when I was ready, and I wasn’t ready.”
She then aimed her final words directly at Carter, who stood only a few feet away from her with his head bowed to the floor.
“If he truly regretted what he did, it never would have happened in the first place,” she said. “Every day you’re in prison I want you to remember why you’re there.”
Carter himself also spoke up for the first time.
“I just want to express how sorry I am,” he told the court. “I was the adult — as things changed I should have stopped things immediately. I lost everything I worked for.”
As part of the plea bargain agreement, Carter will pay $4,825 in restitution. He’s also required to send $5 a week to a sexual abuse clinic chosen by the victim’s family to serve as a reminder of the wrongful act he committed.
Defense attorney Jerome Sabbota and prosecutor Nicki Weisberger each said they do not plan to appeal the sentence.