A high school graphic arts teacher initiated sexually explicit conversations with a 15-year-old student on Facebook and sent her "obscene" images, according to federal prosecutors.
Now the man, who also coached the baseball team at G.W. Carver High School in Birmingham, Alabama, is going to prison, prosecutors say.
A judge sentenced Richard Pope, 57, of Birmingham to four years and six months in federal prison, according to an Oct. 4 news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Alabama. He had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of transmission of obscene material to a minor, officials say.
Pope's sentencing comes after a cybertip from an unspecified individual that alerted the Alabama Law Enforcement agency to his online activities, court documents show. The tip accused Pope of making plans to meet with a teenage girl for "sexual activity" while employed as a teacher.
"Pope betrayed the trust granted to him in his position as a teacher and now will pay the consequences for his actions," FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Felix A. Rivera-Esparra said in a statement.
While Pope's Linkedin says he still works for Birmingham City Schools after joining the high school in 2014, he is no longer listed in the school's staff directory.
McClatchy News contacted Pope's attorney and Carver High School's principal for comment on Oct. 4 and is awaiting a response.
After law enforcement received the cybertip about Pope, investigators executed a search warrant of his Facebook page, as well as the 15-year-old student's account on Aug. 12, 2020, according to Pope's plea agreement.
Pope began messaging the teenage student in March 2020 "after seeing photographs (the girl) had posted to her profile," the plea agreement states.
After telling the student he loves '[w]atching [her]' and the dresses she wears," Pope later messaged the girl, stating "what happens between us 'stays between us,'" according to the plea agreement.
Throughout the Facebook exchanges between Pope and the girl, he would ask the teenager invasive questions and had also "shared graphic details" about his sex life, investigators say.
Pope also sent the student memes, GIFs, images, and videos that were sexually explicit, including some depicting oral sex, according to investigators.
"Some of the images and videos Pope shared appeared to be of Pope himself," the plea agreement states.
Ahead of Pope's sentencing, his attorney submitted a sentencing memorandum, on behalf of Pope, which stated in part: "Mr. Pope recognizes the gravity of conduct. He is remorseful about the pain he has caused his family, community, and most of all the victim. He has led an otherwise law-abiding life, which is reflected by his criminal history score of zero."
Pope was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and must register as a sex offender, according to the news release.
"This sentence sends a strong message that those who abuse their positions of trust with our children will be prosecuted and punished," U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona said in a statement.
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