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Disgraced teacher facing minimum of 20 years for sexual exploitation of students

Lootpress
Lootpress
 2022-08-09
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FAYETTEVILLE, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Former Fayette County educator Leonard Dale Varner Jr., 35 formerly of Hopewell, was sentenced to no less the 20 and no more than 45 years Monday for a litany of felony sex crimes against children, three of which were former students of Varner’s.

An investigation into Varner’s behavior was set into motion by a June 17, 2020 parent complaint to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department alleging Varner had solicited sex from their child via the app Snapchat.

An investigation confirmed these allegations, and spearheaded the process of uncovering further sexual crimes which Varner had committed against children, not only in Fayette County, but in Nicholas and Kanawha County as well.

Having gained the trust of the children, many of whom came from broken homes, Varner established a pattern of isolating the minors, supplying them with copious amounts of alcohol and drugs, and proceeding to engage them in inappropriate sexual activity.

One victim revealed he had been provided with 15 beers and 15 shots of alcohol by Varner, who then proceeded to engage him in inappropriate sexual activity despite the victim’s inability to move and repeated requests for Varner to stop.

Another victim initially was fully unconscious at the time when Varner began engaging in lewd sexual acts with him.

Monday’s hearing also revealed that Varner had the dates of birth of his victims permanently tattooed on the inside of his right wrist, markings which have since been concealed with a larger illustration.

The sentencing itself experienced a number of delays for various reasons, having initially been scheduled for May, with subsequent attempts to schedule for July also made.

The proposed July date was found to be unworkable due to the unavailability of Pennsylvania psychologist Dr. Michael Crabtree Phd, who did make an appearance at Monday’s hearing at the behest of the defense.

The presence of Dr. Crabtree in the Fayette County courtroom, as well as that of several members of the Varner family, had been organized as part of a bid from the defense for Varner’s release on probation.

The position of the defense, based on a lengthy line of questioning directed at Dr. Crabtree, was that of Varner’s state of intoxication having been primarily responsible for his conduct – a position to which the Prosecuting Attorney – and indeed, Judge Blake – took exception. “I don’t know that I subscribe to that based on what I’ve seen in this report,” said Judge Blake.

The characterization of Varner by Dr. Crabtree and Defense Attorney Galloway as a heterosexual man who suffers not from pedophilia, hebephilia, or ephebophilia was vehemently challenged by the prosecution, who asserted that such a claim is completely irreconcilable with the charges to which Varner has admitted and has been convicted.

Several of Varner’s relatives took to the stand to offer their own characterizations of the disgraced former educator, who was said to be a devoted and caring member of the family.

Judge Blake maintained that, while this very well could be the experience of these individuals, it does not negate the behavior displayed by Varner, who he believed to have been enthralled in a “Jekyll and Hyde” situation – referencing the classic gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” in which the amiable, well-respected Dr. Henry Jekyll fights – unsuccessfully – to repress the cruel, horrifying urges within himself which manifest as the monstrous and violent Mr. Edward Hyde.

Notably, the focus of the defense and the witnesses called to the stand remained squarely upon Varner, with no attention to speak of having been brought to the well-being of Varner’s numerous victims. One of these victims was characterized by Judge Blake as having been an academically successful student prior to the abuse suffered at Varner’s hands. “Now his grades have plummeted, he has no interest in going outside, which is understandable,” Judge Blake said.

Prosecuting Attorney Ciliberti, in a final series of remarks which sought to bring the events in question into practical perspective, recommended that the court deny requests for Varner’s release on the condition of a probation sentence.

“Our community trusted this man,” Ciliberti declared. “We trusted him with our children, and he betrayed that trust.”

The defense’s effort to secure Varner’s release contingent on a probation sentence was ultimately, and unsurprisingly, unsuccessful, with Judge Blake asserting, “I don’t know that he’s accepted responsibility for his conduct,” and that a release on probation “would unduly depreciate the seriousness of these offenses.”

Indeed, the extensive display of the defense appeared to minimize the gravity of the behavior displayed by Varner which led to the courtroom assembly.

Leonard Dale Varner Jr. was sentenced to not less than one (1) nor more than five (5) years for the felony crime third-degree sexual assault, to not less than ten (10) years nor more than twenty (20) years for the felony crime of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or custodian, to not less than ten (10) years nor more than twenty-five (25) years for the felony crime of second-degree sexual assault, and to not less than two (2) years nor more than ten (10) years for the felony crime of soliciting a minor. Judge Blake ordered the penalties for sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or custodian, and second-degree sexual assault to be served consecutively. Judge Blake ordered the sentences for the remaining charges be served concurrently with the others. Varner must serve a minimum of twenty (20) years in prison before being eligible for parole.  Varner will serve a maximum sentence of forty-five (45) years. Varner was also ordered to serve forty (40) years of extended supervised release upon discharging his sentence or upon completing parole. A term of supervised release can be converted to a prison sentence if the defendant violates the rules of supervised release. 

Prior LOOTPRESS coverage of these developments can be found here.

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