PORTLAND — A federal judge has found former Auburn music teacher James Raymond Jr. guilty of two counts of transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Last year, Raymond, 29, was charged with transporting a girl younger than 18 from Maine to New Hampshire and back on July 14, 2007, and on Aug. 13, 2007, with the intent to commit felonious sexual assault and unlawful sexual touching.
Each count carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of life and/or a fine of $250,000.
The written verdict was handed down Friday morning along with the judge’s findings of fact. A federal prosecutor quickly filed a motion seeking Raymond’s detention pending his September sentencing. Raymond has been free before and during his trial, but confined to his Auburn home with an electronic monitoring device.
Contacted at his Cook Street home Friday morning, Raymond was attempting to speak to his attorney and declined to comment on the verdict.
The investigation was carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Auburn Police Department.
According to the court’s finding of guilt, the victim in this case was 11 years old at the time of the crime. The girl was Raymond’s student and participated in the Auburn school chorus that Raymond directed.
Raymond took the girl and her 9-year-old sister from their home to his home, and then to Canobie Lake Park, an amusement park in Salem, N.H., on July 14, 2007. At least three times during the day, while the girl was dressed in her bathing suit, Raymond was found to have intentionally touched her buttocks, “each time saying he was sorry,” according to the court.
Justice D. Brock Hornby ruled that Raymond did not touch the girl accidentally, but did so “for sexual gratification.”
More specifically, the judge found that Raymond had arranged the circumstances of the trip “to provide an opportunity for touching.” And did so again for a second trip to that park in August the same year.
According to Hornby’s ruling, he found the testimony of the girl — who is now 14 years old — believable as to Raymond’s actions. According to the ruling, the judge also considered Raymond’s own admissions that he had “physical urges to touch young girls’ buttocks” as evidence of his guilt.
A number of other students testified during the federal trial, including students who witnessed Raymond behave inappropriately with the then 11-year-old victim while on a school trip. The victim also testified that on one of the two trips she took with Raymond to New Hampshire, he put his hand inside her shirt on her belly and that she slapped it away. At the time, Raymond apologized to the girl, she testified.
According to court records, the victim did not tell anyone about Raymond touching her when it happened. In October 2007 when Raymond’s arrest on the state charge involving another girl became public, Raymond called the 11-year-old girl’s mother. The mother then called the school to complain about that phone call, and the school contacted police. Police interviewed the girl that day, and later arranged for her to be evaluated at a sexual assault crisis center in Lewiston. It was there that the girl revealed the circumstances of the touching during the New Hampshire trips.
She testified that it took her so long to tell someone because she was scared and embarrassed by the incidents, and remains scared and embarrassed now.
In making his ruling, Hornby found that Raymond “had motivation to lie” to police and to the court because “his liberty and music teaching career both are at stake.”
Raymond’s attempts, Hornby found, “to explain away the damaging statements that he made about his interest in young girls to the Auburn detective during the videotaped interview were wholly unpersuasive,” and that his court testimony of the circumstances of contact between himself and the girl were not credible.
In 2008, Raymond was tried and convicted in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn on five charges: two counts of unlawful sexual touching and three counts of assault. The three girls involved were music students of Raymond at the time of the incidents in April 2005 and September and October 2007.
One girl was a first-grader at East Auburn Community School, another was a second-grader at Park Avenue Elementary School and the third was a fifth-grader at Webster Intermediate School.
The judge allowed the prior superior court conviction to be presented during the federal trial, over the defendant’s objection, to show motive and intent, according to the ruling.
During the period of those crimes, Raymond was a teacher at Park Avenue and East Auburn elementary schools. He also was an assistant marching band instructor at Leavitt Area High School in Turner, founder of the Central Maine Children’s Theater Project and an instructor for the Central Maine Children’s Chorus.
One of the nine people who testified as character witnesses for James Raymond Jr. during his trial in federal court said Friday she was stunned by the judge’s guilty verdict.
“I’m shocked,” said Linda Roman, a retired teacher from Auburn. “I don’t think he’s guilty. I don’t think they proved intent.”
A judge found Raymond guilty of two counts of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of engaging in criminal sexual activity. The minimum sentence is 10 years in prison; the maximum is life.
Roman, who leased an apartment to Raymond seven years ago and taught at an Auburn elementary school where he interned, talked to Raymond after he learned he likely would be going to prison.
“I’m just amazed at how he’s taken this,” she said. Raymond talked to family and friends sounding upbeat.
“This guy’s just an amazing guy,” she said. He also is brilliant and the best music teacher the city has ever hired, she added.
Roman said she got to know Raymond well when he was a tenant. He would talk to her every day, calling her often and even inviting her on trips.
“He kept reaching out to me,’ she said. “He’s just a people person.”
She said she would have picked up on any hint that he was capable of doing the things the prosecutor suggested Raymond did.
“I know people very, very well. I would have spotted that so quickly,” she said.
“This is a big mistake,” she said of the verdict.
Roman said Raymond was naïve to the point where he sometimes did things he probably shouldn’t have done, such as taking two young girls on a trip without any other adults.
“He should not have taken the kids across state lines,” she said. “He’s very childlike.”
But she doesn’t believe he intended to anything but bring them joy by paying for a trip to an amusement park.
Roman believed Raymond when he said he lied to a police detective during an interview because he felt trapped and only told the detective what he wanted to hear in order to bring the interview to an end.
She isn’t the only one who believes in his innocence, she said. More than 30 people were willing to testify on his behalf, she said.
Roman said she believes a divine fate has guided Raymond, whose ability to endure hardship has astounded her.
“He won’t waste his time in prison,” she said, predicting he would continue to pursue his interest in music, if allowed.