PORTLAND — Former Auburn music teacher James Raymond Jr. said in federal court Friday that he viewed child pornography regularly and purchased memberships to three Web sites until something suddenly made him stop.
Raymond, 29, said it was an image on one of those sites that made him see something startling in the photographs and “freaked me out,” he said.
“The last one I saw was a child in pain," he said. "I said, ‘This is really wrong.’”
He began the Web site memberships by looking at pictures of nude children, but not for sexual gratification, he said. He wasn't addicted, despite an earlier admission to a police detective. And he said he hadn’t thought of his students sexually.
Raymond took the witness stand for most of the morning Friday at U.S. District Court. He was indicted last year by a federal grand jury on two counts of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
He was released on bail, confined to his Auburn home pending trial, which started Tuesday.
If convicted, Raymond faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life on each count.
A 14-year-old girl testified earlier in the week that he had touched her breasts, buttocks and “private area” during two trips to Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H., in the summer of 2007 when she was 11 years old and was his fifth-grade student. Raymond also had taken the girl’s 9-year-old sister on the two trips. No other adult or child went on those trips.
Under questioning from his attorney, Richard Hartley of Bangor, Raymond denied the girl’s accusations. He said he may have touched her buttocks while climbing a ladder to one of the rides. If he had, it wasn’t intentional, he said. The park was crowded and that kind of touching might have resulted from jostling.
When he learned about the other allegations of touching he said, “I was shocked because I knew they had not happened.”
Raymond said he took pity on the girl, whose family was poor and couldn’t afford such a luxury. He had offered to take the entire family, but the girls’ mother objected, he said, so he ended up taking only the two girls.
On each trip, his cousin was supposed to accompany him and the girls, and each time the cousin had called at the last minute to say he couldn’t make it, Raymond said.
Before leaving town on the first trip, Raymond had taken the girls to his home because there was less urgency to leave immediately after he learned he didn’t have to pick up his cousin 20 minutes away, he said.
He said he never invited the 11-year-old girl onto his bed, as she had testified. And he never cuddled with her younger sister on his bed.
During a lengthy interview with an Auburn police detective, Raymond said he made false admissions because he thought they were what the detective wanted to hear in the wake of accusations of inappropriate touching lodged by a different student.
He said he understood the detective to have told him there would be no repercussions if he admitted to the type of behavior of which the detective accused him.
“He was really aggressive in his questions,” Raymond said of Detective Chad Syphers during the interview in October 2007. His language was laced with “crude and sexual” references, which offended Raymond and wasn’t how he was used to being spoken to, he said.
“I felt like there was nowhere to go,” but to admit to things he hadn’t done and thoughts he hadn’t had, he said.
“I did not feel like I could leave that room,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff said Syphers had reminded Raymond more than once that he could leave the interview any time and he would not be arrested. Wolff played video clips from the interview, showing Raymond making admissions, including urges to put his hand up young girls’ skirts and touch their legs and buttocks.
That and other admissions were uttered by Raymond before Syphers talked about “wiping the slate clean,” Wolff noted.
When Syphers asked Raymond in the videotaped interview if he was nervous, Raymond said: “No, I’m pretty hungry.”
When questioned by federal agents about the pornography sites before Sypher’s interview, Raymond told the agents he was interested in young girls. But on Friday he said he had been intimidated by Special Agent Gary Moulton and two other agents with him and felt pressured to give them the answers he thought they were seeking.
Raymond also countered the alleged victim’s earlier testimony about a different trip to the New Hampshire park. Raymond’s chorus group had gone to the park at the end of the 2007 school year. On the ride back from the park, the girl testified Raymond had told her to sit in the back of the bus next to him. She and other students testified that Raymond had touched her inappropriately during that ride.
Raymond said Friday the girl had willingly sat with him and had fallen asleep on his shoulder. He hadn’t touched her at all on the bus, he said.
Hartley had one more witness to call, but had trouble scheduling a time and date, he told Judge D. Brock Hornby.
The trial is expected to resume after Monday, when Hornby planned to meet again with both attorneys.
Raymond waived his right to a jury trial; Hornby will decide the case.