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Giacomo

Former Hilldale band director Danny Brian Giacomo pleaded guilty Monday to 16 charges — including lewd molestation, rape and sodomy —and laid blame on school officials.

Giacomo received six years in prison and 29 years probation.

The charges were made in three felony cases involving 14- and 15-year-old Hilldale band students. Giacomo resigned from Hilldale on Nov. 24, 2006, the day before the first of the charges were filed. One of the cases was filed in Custer County, where Giacomo had been at a band camp with one of his students.

Giacomo testified Monday that Hilldale Superintendent D.B. Merrill and then-Assistant High School Principal Darren Riddle knew of his inappropriate behavior with at least one of the students. In an affidavit, he said Merrill and Riddle refused to allow a student who complained to Riddle about the improprieties to return to Hilldale as a transfer student.

Riddle and Merrill did not return messages Monday.

District Judge Thomas Alford told Giacomo he would have to serve 85 percent of his prison sentence before being eligible for parole. And if his 29-year probation were later revoked, Giacomo would have to serve 85 percent of that time, Alford told Giacomo.

While he is on probation, Giacomo is not to have any contact with anyone under 18 years of age, including his own children, Alford ruled.

“The families are happy with the outcome (plea agreement),” said Assistant District Attorney Nikki Baker Dotson. “They feel that it was appropriate punishment.”

Both of Giacomo’s teen victims attended Monday’s hearing.

One chewed bubblegum, blowing blue bubbles as she waited for the sentencing to start.

She yelled out and collapsed in tears and sobs on the courtroom bench upon hearing the sentencing.

The other victim silently cried as she was comforted by her family.

Giacomo read parts of an affidavit to tell the judge the basis for his guilty plea.

“I engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with more than one minor student at Hilldale Public Schools,” he read. “I used my power and influence as a band teacher to gain access to and seduce these minor Hilldale students.”

Giacomo told the judge that Hilldale Public Schools enabled him to have inappropriate contact with the minor students.

One of the students told Giacomo others were calling her a “slut” who had a relationship with her “pedophile” boyfriend, Giacomo testified.

Giacomo’s affidavit states he took one of the students making those remarks to see Riddle. The boy told Riddle there were rumors throughout the school that one of the female students was having sex with Giacomo. The boy’s parents also talked to Riddle about the rumors, the affidavit states.

With Giacomo’s help, he said Riddle reprimanded the boy and told him to stop spreading rumors. Riddle allegedly then told Giacomo that the boy would not be returning to the school because of the accusations.

When Merrill asked why the school wasn’t allowing the boy to return on a transfer, Riddle told him what the boy said about Giacomo and Merrill decided not to let the boy return to Hilldale, the affidavit states.

He testified he would constantly get one of the girls out of class to engage in inappropriate sexual conduct.

He said teachers were aware of him pulling the girls out of class.

He said he manipulated the two girls with “grades and favoritism.

“My handling of these students was open and notorious,” he testified, adding a counselor told him one of the girls had a “crush” on him.

He said he was constantly able to be alone with the students to molest them during school hours.

“The other students knew, the other teaches must have known, and I knew that Riddle and Merrill knew. Yet, no administrator ever admonished me or even cautioned me not to be with the students alone.”

Giacomo’s affidavit alleges the district breached its obligation to the students because they allowed teachers, coaches and band directors to be alone with students without supervision.

“I just hope it (plea) brings some closure for these young women and allows them to get this behind them,” Alford said.

Reach Donna Hales at 684-2923 or dhales@ muskogeephoenix.com.

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