A Montgomery County judge that struck a child sex abuse conviction from a former high school teacher's criminal record, will also allow the teacher to remove his name from the state's sex offender registry.
Circuit Court Judge David A. Boynton on Sept. 15 provided former Albert Einstein High School teacher Richard Shemer the written consent needed to legally remove his name.
"Mr. Shemer is no longer required to register as a sex offender and shall be removed from the Sex Offender Registry list," Boynton's court order read.
Montgomery County State's Attorney spokesman Ramon Korionoff said there is no avenue of appeal for the state prosecutor's office. "It is at the discretion of the judge," Korionoff said.
Korionoff said the State's Attorney office strongly opposed the original defense motion – that Boynton approved Sept. 5 – which allowed Shemer to be granted a lesser charge of the sex abuse violation, known as "Probation Before Justice." The status put into motion Shemer's ability to be taken off the registry.
"Over our objections the judge granted the motion," Korionoff said of Boynton's Sept. 5 ruling. "We believe this defendant should be on a sex offender registry."
Shemer sent "dozens" of sexually-charged emails to a 16-year-old female student using a county-issued email address in 2013, said Isabel Estrada, the victim's mother. He also met with the student multiple times during lunch and after school to have discussions about sexual activity.
Shemer plead guilty to one count of sex abuse of a minor in 2014. He received a sentence of 20 years in prison, with all but one year suspended. However, a recommendation from Boynton resulted in Shemer spending only three weeks in jail.
Boynton said in court he thought Shemer was genuine in accepting responsibility for his actions and the likelihood of Shemer re-offending was low.
Estrada offered her thoughts on the judge’s actions in this case.
"I find this ruling as obscene as the notion of wiping away Shemer's sentence through the ‘probation before judgment’ mechanism," Estrada said. "I hope the judge has some mechanism to also wipe away the harm to my daughter and my family. An African-American kid will have to live with the consequences of a joint all his life, but a white teacher from the right side of the tracks could pull sexual abuse off and get away with it. Amazing."
Efforts to reach Shemer through his attorney Barry Helfand were unsuccessful. According to Shemer's court testimony, he resides with his parents in Leisure World, a senior living community in Silver Spring.
Janis Startucci, a member of the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County – a Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) watchdog group – blames the school system for allowing Shemer to resign instead of firing him.
"When Richard Shemer pleaded guilty to sex abuse of a minor, the Board of Education did not terminate him from MCPS," Startucci said in a statement. "The Board of Education sent a very clear message to the judge, to their staff, and to the public that they do not consider the type of behavior that Mr. Shemer engaged in to be criminal or in violation of their code of conduct for teachers. The Board of Education's action laid the foundation for Judge Boynton to erase this conviction."
Derek Turner, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said state law and MCPS practices prohibit people convicted of child abuse from working at schools.
When asked if the school system, which is intimately familiar with Shemer's activities, agrees with the decision to allow Shemer's name off the sex offender's list, Turner provided the following statement:
"It is the responsibility of the judicial system to examine the facts of each case and determine guilt, innocence, sentencing, and probation," Turner stated.
On whether the state board would reinstate Shemer's professional teaching license that was revoked in 2014, Startucci questioned: "The Maryland State Board of Education has revoked Mr. Shemer's teaching license, but with this decision will the door be opened for that revocation to be reversed as well, opening the door for the Board of Education to put Mr. Shemer back in a MCPS classroom?”
"We can't comment," Maryland Department of Education Spokesman William Reinhard said. "It's way too speculative."
Reinhard said the state would first need to see an application from Shemer.