Stephen Budd Found Guilty of Molesting Elementary Students at Rosarian Academy
Stephen Budd, the former Rosarian Academy Elementary School teacher accused of child molestation, has been found guilty on all counts on Tuesday.
Budd, 53, has been sentenced to serve three consecutive life sentences, and another 15 years.
In 2003, Budd was arrested as he was leaving his West Palm Beach apartment after two fourth grade girls came forward and told police that Budd had given then candy in exchange for sexual favors. The acts occurred in 2006 when Budd was the girls' fourth grade homeroom teacher at Rosarian Academy. The girls, who are teens now, were both 9-years-old at the time.
According to investigators, Budd had given the victims what he deemed as "Budd Bucks," which was payment in candy, in exchange for the sexual acts. At the time of his arrest, police said that the exchange with the girls had begun at the beginning of the school year and had gone on as a daily routine.
After the victims came forward, investigators soon began keeping tabs on Budd via controlled phone calls, text messages and Facebook messages he exchanged with the girls.
Some of the phone call recordings were played during the trial, where the jury heard the girls telling Budd to confess what he did and to apologize. At one point, Budd expresses his remorse, though he would stop short of admitting what he did.
"I can't admit to something I didn't do," Budd is heard saying in the phone call recording. "I feel like these are serious accusations...something that would cost me my entire life."
Another recording picked up audio of what police called "the sounds of rummaging and zippers" before Budd abruptly ends the call. Moments after that, officers appeared at his apartment and arrested him as he was preparing to leave.
Budd's defense team had argued that there was no physical evidence against him.
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The victims themselves testified during the trial about the sexual abuse they suffered in the classroom. In turn, prosecutors told the jury that the girls had no reason to make up these stories. The jury was told of another victim who had testified over abuse at the hands of Budd ten years earlier.
According to one report, Budd had turned down a 25-year plea deal and elected to go to trial. The closing arguments were made on Monday, and the jury didn't take long to deliver their verdict, finding him guilty of sexual battery on a person under twelve.
In addition to the prison sentences, Budd will also be classified as a sexual predator.
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