Dressed in a bright orange Cumberland County Jail suit, the former Auburn schoolteacher sat at a table in a cramped concrete-block room. Less than two weeks earlier, he had been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. At any moment, he would be told to gather his belongings and leave Maine in shackles. He didn't know when and he didn't know where he would be going.
In the jail's visiting room, he had assembled a row of neatly stacked documents.
He was planning his appeal, he said. He intended to show the courts and his community that he wasn't a pedophile, a teacher who touches his young female students for sexual gratification.
James Raymond Jr., 29, was found guilty by a jury in state court and, two years later, a judge in federal court of sex-related crimes involving three victims.
He had admitted to police to having urges to put his hand up the skirts of young girls to touch their buttocks. He told investigators he had viewed child pornography on subscription websites.
Once Raymond serves his prison sentence, he'll be subject to supervision by federal authorities for the rest of his life.
Yet, despite the two trials and seven guilty verdicts, despite the court testimony of his young accusers and videotaped admissions to a local police detective, Raymond awaits his appeal with the confidence characteristic of a man certain he will be vindicated. His faith is strong. Moreover, his spirits are buoyed by the continued support shown by teachers and parents who share Raymond's belief in his innocence and who look forward to the day his name will be cleared.
Raymond says the victims were manipulated by their parents, the media and police. He says he was coerced by the police detective who interviewed him. Raymond said he lied to the detective, telling him what he thought he wanted to hear in order to end the interview. Many of his supporters echo those claims in his defense.
At his two trials, Raymond's supporters urged an acquittal, touting his qualities as a bright, inspiring teacher with serious musical talent. If he were guilty of anything, they said, it was of possibly being too trusting, too naïve and too blinded by enthusiasm to recognize his own poor judgment.
They urged leniency before the courts' respective judges imposed sentences on the local teacher they championed.
But some, including those who advocate for sexual abuse victims, say Raymond's supporters, like Raymond himself, are in a state of denial about his criminal activity, as are many convicted criminals. They say Raymond's backers don't want to believe someone to whom they entrusted their students and children, the most vulnerable members of the community, could have betrayed that trust.
In a jail interview earlier this month, Raymond talked about his legal troubles as ordeals not of his own making. They are, he said, burdens he must endure.
“I look at Joseph who actually was put in prison for, I think, about 12 years for a sex crime he didn't do,” Raymond said. “In the end, he ended up being second in charge of Egypt. I'm not saying that's going to happen with me. I'm not going to come out in 12 years and the truth will all come out in 12 years. I hope it does. I hope it comes out before 12 years, you know, that I'm innocent.”
He's suffered setbacks in life.
As a baby, Raymond suffered a brain stem inflation. At 18 months, he was prescribed eye-glasses.
When Raymond was 17, his father, James Sr., a part-time Androscoggin County Sheriff's deputy, shot and killed Raymond's step-mother before shooting himself fatally on April Fool's Day.
“I don't want to say it didn't have an effect, but it didn't have a lot of outward effect,” Raymond said. “I dealt with my grief by doing things. Going right back to the Boston Crusaders (Drum and Bugle Corps) that same weekend. Keeping myself busy, keeping myself occupied. That was the way that I dealt with that.”
Raymond was raised by his mother and grandparents, a tightknit group that followed his trials with somber solidarity.
Raymond said his Christian faith since his teenage years has helped him through tough times.
“I think God's got something planned for me that's bigger than I can imagine,” Raymond said. “God puts things in our lives and he's got a reason for it.”
Raymond doesn't deny that he touched his victims. If it happened, it was accidental, he said. He could only be guilty of a crime if he intended to touch them for sexual gratification. He was convicted because the state, then federal government, proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he did.
But, many teachers and parents of children to whom Raymond taught music at school and in their homes, or who he coached on the football field, believed him when he said he didn't intend anything sexual in his touch.
About eight years ago, William Grant of Leeds met Raymond when he was hired as assistant marching band director at Leavitt Area High School in Turner.
Raymond worked with Grant's two daughters: Emily, an eighth-grader who played trumpet (like Raymond) and mellophone; and Janet, a sophomore who played percussion.
Grant came to know Raymond well enough to be able to say, “I don't believe he has a sexual interest in small children.”
Grant said he found it “far easier” to believe that Raymond became flustered by an Auburn police detective and made admissions he didn't mean “than I would ever be able to believe that he committed those crimes, that he had sexual intent in being involved with those young girls.”
Grant, his wife and Emily all spoke in court on Raymond's behalf.
“He was a great inspiration to the kids, very enthusiastic, very talented,” Grant said. “He brought a real positive attitude that he imparted to the whole group. We were very taken with him and the way he did that.”
Although Grant didn't sit through Raymond's two trials, he doesn't think having heard the victims testify would have changed his view.
“I doubt it very much,” he said.
Grant's family isn't alone in its defense of Raymond.
Emily told reporters outside the Portland federal courthouse after Raymond's sentencing, “There is no one in my community who believes he committed this crime.”
Likewise, Linda Roman, a veteran Auburn teacher who rented an upstairs apartment to Raymond, was a defense witness at Raymond's federal trial.
She was a teacher at Sherwood Heights Elementary School when Raymond was student-teaching there.
He worked with her class, so she got to see him in action.
They are still close. He had been calling her a couple of times a week from jail to chat.
Besides being a good teacher, he has a genius for music, she said.
Despite his convictions, she believes him when he says he didn't commit any crimes.
“It just doesn't fit him at all,” she said. “He's just so open about everything, so transparent.”
Sex offenders are calculating. But that doesn't describe Raymond, she said.
“I would lay my life down for him because I know this guy is not sneaking around doing perverted things and planning and conniving," she said. "He's not that way at all.”
Roman said she was at the Great Falls Balloon Festival when Raymond offered tickets to Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire to the family of the two girls who eventually went with him alone twice in the summer of 2007.
“This was not a contrived thing,” Roman said. “There's not one secret about this guy's life.”
Roman predicted Raymond's case would not end with his sentence. He filed his intention to appeal his conviction and sentence in federal court last week.
“It's not over,” she said. “This guy is innocent. This is why he has such support.”
It's not surprising that some members of the community who knew Raymond before he was charged in 2007 with sex-related crimes involving children would continue to defend him and deny his crimes, say victim advocates and the state's top psychologist.
One explanation, called cognitive dissonance theory, holds that people seek to rectify contrary information about something because it's in our nature to have everything in our lives conform with our understanding of the way things are, said psychologist Ann LeBlanc, director of State Forensic Services.
“If I know someone that I like and I care about that has been, as far as I can tell, a good person, and then I get dissonant information that this person has been sexually molesting young girls, those two things don't fit,” she said.
In an effort to lessen the conflict between those pieces of contradictory information, people might discount the negative information, an easier thing to do than form an entirely different impression of the person you thought you knew, LeBlanc said.
“People don't like to believe that bad things happen in schools and neighborhoods,” said Keri Myrick, coordinator and forensic interviewer for Androscoggin Children's Advocacy Center, where children believed to be victims of sexual assault are interviewed.
People who know sex offenders are often in denial, she said. “I see it all the time.”
Marty McIntyre, executive director at the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, has been involved with advocating for victims of sex crimes for more than two decades.
“I think it speaks to denial in general in the world of the reality of child sexual abuse,” she said. “It's hard for people to believe that it happens.”
Because so few children speak out about their sexual abuse, the public doesn't understand how often the crime occurs, McIntyre said.
“In this particular case, I think the people who are supporting him are people who know him in a particular way or have experiences with him in a particular way," she said. "And those experiences don't lend themselves to believing that he could behave in this totally different way.”
“The problem is, of course, that people who assault children are really good at figuring out who the vulnerable kids are and who the kids are who aren't maybe as connected to a solid support system and aren't likely to talk,” she said.
“Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are really good at presenting themselves in certain ways in communities,” she said, citing the Catholic Church priest scandal.
Believing that Raymond didn't commit a crime might be a comfort to those who worked with him or to parents whose children were his students because that way, they wouldn't have to consider the notion that their student or children were at risk.
Victims of sexual abuse are treated in the same manner as victims of other crimes, McIntyre said. Their credibility is always in question.
In Raymond's case, the jury at the state trial and the judge at the federal trial believed the victims. Having members of the community doubt the validity of the verdicts sends a troubling message to those victims, McIntyre said.
“How do those young girls function in a community in which they are clearly being labeled by some as liars and as kids who have some kind of evil intent to destroy this person?" she said. "That's a huge concern that we have for those girls.”
And what message does it send to other victims who haven't come forward?
“The broader issue is that it's just this kind of community reaction that can cause children who may be sexually abused to think twice about speaking up,” McIntyre said. "And that would be a huge concern because the only way that these children are going to get help is to be able to talk about it.”
Several days ago, Raymond was transferred from the Portland jail to the Stafford County Jail in New Hampshire to begin serving his sentence in federal custody.