Teacher pleads guilty to relationship with former student, walks free

Posted at 1:51 PM, Sep 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-13 18:56:29-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Weeks after he left the courtroom in stunned silence after his plea deal was rejected, former Richmond school teacher William Lee Hazelgrove Jr., was back in court Friday morning.  This time, the judge overseeing the new sentencing hearing, Judge Gregory Rupe, decided to suspend the 12 months jail time Hazelgrove faced.

More than 20 people appeared in person and a video was played in court Friday to support Hazelgrove, a local artist and former art teacher at Trinity Episcopal School.

Hazelgrove was arrested in May and charged with a felony indecent liberties with a minor.  But a plea agreement led to the charges being downgraded to a misdemeanor charge for delinquency of a minor.

The charges stemmed from a relationship Hazelgrove with a 17-year-old girl who was one of his former students.

The relationship happened in January 2011.

Prosecutor Mary Langer told the judge it began with fondling, but escalated into intercourse at Hazelgrove's Richmond home. Langer also revealed the victim once babysat Hazelgrove's child.

In addition to Hazelgrove's courtroom supporters, his defense team called four character witnesses to the stand.  The witnesses included Hazelgrove's elderly father, his ex-wife to whom he was married for 19 years, a former Ohio prosecutor--who was a fraternity brother of Hazelgrove and a parent of one of his former students.

The defense also presented 12 letters from supporters in addition to playing a video in court, that offered testimonials from 12 people.  Those on the video ranged from former students, parents of former students and his daughter.

Before Judge Rupe handed down his sentence,  he asked the prosecution for a second time if the victim and her parents agreed with the plea deal and to suspend his sentence.

Langer told the judge the victim, now 19, said "whatever happens to him, happens to him."

When Judge Rupe asked Langer what sentenced she wanted to see imposed, she said as part of her agreement with the defense she would not answer that question.

Hazelgrove's lawyer, Todd Stone, who also serves as CBS 6 legal analyst, said his client's "reputation has been ruined by his own action."

Stone went on to say Hazelgrove was depressed when he started the relationship with the teenager. He reminded the court that after the "intimate relationship" between Hazelgrove and the teen ended, they remained friends for a year-and-a-half and it was not until after the victim told a counselor-- who by law was required to report the incident-- that Hazelgrove was arrested.

Judge Rupe's 12-month suspended sentence will be in effect for 10 years.  In addition, the judge fined Hazelgrove $2,500 and forbade him from teaching children under the age of 18.

He also ordered Hazelgrove to have no contact with the victim.