Less than 17 months after being sentenced for sex-related crimes with four of his students, former Charlottesville High School choir director Jonathan Spivey has been freed from jail. Considering the controversy at the start of his imprisonment in the fall of 2007, Spivey’s release on March 10 was surprisingly quiet, and especially in contrast to the shock and outrage that met his arrest and indictment in the fall of 2006 for multiple charges involving sexual contact with male students
After serving less than 17 months since he was sentenced for sex-related crimes with four of his students, former Charlottesville High School choir director Jonathan Spivey is out—though you can find him on the Internet.
During his 15 years at CHS, Spivey had grown the choral program and under his care its choir had won numerous awards. Moreover, in his duration as a city resident, he had become a familiar face in the community. Married with three sons, he was also music director at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church, and became an ordained pastor there in 1995.
Not insignificant, Alvin Edwards, City School Board chair and former mayor, was (and remains) the church’s pastor. When his choir director was sentenced to only 21 months, Edwards suddenly became the focus of ire—primarily expressed online—with many accusing him of protecting Spivey.
To these charges, Edwards bristled when called for his response in the fall of 2007. Why had he appeared at Spivey’s sentencing? Wasn’t he worried about any perceived impropriety, given his role with the city schools? “I’m his pastor,” he replied caustically, and to any other queries I threw his way.
Then later that October, I was invited to an impromptu meeting at Blue Ridge Commons, the public housing area in the Prospect-Orangedale area. Inside its substation, an older female resident, joined by a community counselor and a city police sergeant, expressed rage at the length of Spivey’s sentence—“the time didn’t meet the crime”—and maintained that he had far more victims than had been reported, including someone she claimed to be closely related to.
“The community has known this was going on all along,” she stated, insisting on anonymity. “We have to blame ourselves, we knew.” Even with this concession, she held her greatest fury for Edwards and demanded that he be held responsible somehow. Closely tied together, in her mind Spivey and Edwards were inseparable community pillars, but only one was going to prison.
Edwards did not return calls last week for comment.
The woman’s plea was emotional and seemed sincere, but any attempts to follow up with her in the ensuing weeks failed. On the heels of that came a similarly frustrating call for justice, but from an altogether different source.
On January 17, 2008, Michael Pudhorodsky, the president of a group called Generation Y, sent an e-mail to Charlottesville media in anticipation of that night’s School Board meeting. “A member of Generation Y will be at every public meeting,” the release stated, “calling for Dr. [Alvin] Edwards’ resignation until he decides to do so.”
“We feel that he chose Mr. Spivey over the students and over the victims and that is an affront to the victims in the case,” explained Pudhorodsky later. Yet, the 27-year-old Charlottesville native failed to attend that night’s meeting or any other—and for good reason. He himself was being pursued by police for failing to appear in Albemarle County Court on credit card theft charges. Needless to say, when he was arrested and then sentenced last May, his credibility had eroded.
In the intervening time, much of the controversy over Spivey and Edwards has died down. The latter continues to serve on the school board but in January took a sabbatical from his duties—both there and at church—through the first week of April. Pudhorodsky was released from incarceration in the fall but was arrested for violating his probation on March 4. He is currently being held in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Six days later, Spivey was released from the Buckingham Correctional Center. On probation for five years, he will have to register as a sex offender and is barred from unsupervised contact with minor children, unless their custodian or guardian gives permission. Any additional terms of his probation were withheld.
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