"Neal Willetts is a young man who has amazingly supportive friends and family," said a letter crafted by his attorney, Francis Lawrence, and released to the media December 4 shortly before the former social studies teacher at Western Albemarle was sentenced in federal court to 10 years in prison.
Neal Willetts will serve 10 years for enticing a minor.
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In March, Willetts was arrested for charges stemming from a series of graphic sexual e-mails written to a male student who was 15 at the time. While the teacher pleaded guilty to a federal charge of coercion and enticement of a minor, his September 17 plea allowed him to avoid a more serious charge of child exploitation, which carries a potential penalty of 15 to 30 years in prison.
"The Federal criminal justice system has made inappropriate electronic communications with young people severely punishable, even if nothing happens," the letter continued. Willetts used the Internet over the past two years to try to obtain sex (and originally was alleged to have been successful in some attempts) from as many as eight children, including one student from Fluvanna County High School and two from Western Albemarle, where he began teaching in the fall of 2005.
Willetts resigned the following summer after earning his master’s degree from UVA, and had most recently worked in the Middle East, where he taught theater to middle and high school students. He was taken into custody by the FBI in New York this March when he returned to the United States.
"Neal sincerely apologizes for the anguish that his actions have caused this young person and his family," read his lawyer’s letter. "Neal is committed to be a model prisoner and to make significant positive contributions to the community on his release." Ten years from now.
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