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Dec 18, 2013 12:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Five Years' Probation For Former Teacher Who Filmed Girls

Dec 18, 2013 1:48 PM

A former Westhampton Beach Middle School gym teacher who admitted to filming girls while they changed clothes in the school locker room last winter was sentenced to five years of probation on Wednesday morning, despite prosecutors’ and victims’ request that he receive jail time.

Thomas Sheppard, 28, of Speonk also will be required to register as a Level 1 sex offender for the next 20 years as part of the sentence Judge Barbara Kahn handed down in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverside, and will receive treatment as part of his probation.

Sex offenders are ranked on a scale of 1 to 3 by the court, based on the likelihood of committing a similar crime again. Prosecutors recommended that Mr. Sheppard register as a Level 1 offender, which means there is a low risk of re-offense.

In October, Mr. Sheppard pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree unlawful surveillance and seven misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child—one for each of his victims who were either 13 or 14 years old at the time. He also submitted his resignation as an employee of the Westhampton Beach School District.

Prior to the sentencing, several of the victims’ family members and one of the victims addressed the court and asked Judge Kahn to incarcerate Mr. Sheppard. One mother stated that her daughter vomited every night for four weeks and lost sleep due the anxiety the incident caused.

Relatives of the victims have stated in the past that the girls were targeted by other students and community members, some of whom accused the girls of lying about the incident in order to get the popular teacher in trouble.

“You are a disgrace to society, and you should be ashamed of yourself,” one of Mr. Sheppard’s young victims told him.

“He violated my trust and the trust of the entire community,” a mother of one of the victims said from a podium in the front of the courtroom.

Mr. Sheppard, who was dressed in a navy blue suit, turned to face those sitting in the audience and said he was “deeply sorry” for his actions. He added that it was never his intention to hurt anyone.

“My hope is that the bravery that [the victims] showed today and throughout this situation will serve them well in the future, and I want nothing but the best for all the individuals involved,” Mr. Sheppard said.

“I make no excuses for what has happened,” he continued. “I’ve tried to face this the best I can, and that’s the best I can do. Hopefully, you will accept my apology at some point.”

James Chalifoux, deputy bureau chief of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s Major Crime Bureau and lead prosecutor in the case, said Mr. Sheppard told probation officers that he was “sexually excited” upon setting up the phone to record the girls and provided no other explanation for his actions.

Mr. Chalifoux also recommended the maximum sentence allowed, between 16 months and four years in prison.

Judge Kahn said Mr. Chalifoux’s recommendation appeared to be focused on retribution. She said a prison sentence would not better protect the public, nor deter Mr. Sheppard from future misconduct, because it would not require the treatment or intensive supervision that probation demands.

Peter Brill, Mr. Sheppard’s attorney, said the former gym teacher regrets his actions and the harm he has caused for his victims and their families. “No one may ever believe that, whether I say it or he says it,” Mr. Brill said.

Outside the courtroom prior to sentencing, Mr. Brill explained that, under the terms of his client’s probation, he must seek permission before leaving Suffolk County. He said could receive permission to do so if he lands a job outside of the county, but that it would be difficult for Mr. Sheppard to move until he completes his probation.

“He let a lot of people down with one stupid act,” Mr. Brill added.

Officials with the Suffolk County district attorney’s office said Mr. Sheppard intentionally placed his cellphone in the girls locker room at the middle school, with its video function turned on, in order to record the girls while they changed on February 26. State Police arrested him three weeks later following an investigation.

Mr. Sheppard was immediately suspended from his teaching position with pay until he submitted his resignation to the Westhampton Beach Board of Education in October, prior to pleading guilty to the charges.

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"Mr. Sheppard was immediately suspended from his teaching position with pay until he submitted his resignation to the Westhampton Beach Board of Education in October"
Westhampton tax payers must love that.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Dec 18, 13 12:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
By Miss K. (103), East Quogue on Dec 18, 13 1:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
Disappointment. Complete disappointment.
By News1171 (3), east quogue on Dec 18, 13 2:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
“He let a lot of people down with one stupid act,” Mr. Brill added.

I can think of a LOT of words to use in place of the word "stupid". "Stupid" is probably the nicest thing you can say about what he did - and I'm hard pressed to believe it was the first time he ever did it.

As for the judge saying jail time wouldn't help him - I disagree. Jail time would at least show Mr. Sheppard that there is an ACTUAL punishment for committing such crimes, instead of merely losing ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 18, 13 2:29 PM
2 members liked this comment
By Eliza (29), Westhampton Beach on Dec 18, 13 4:16 PM
No doubt the guy was an idiot for his actions. He lost a 75k easy job with full benefits, and is now a registered sex offender. He can no longer be a
teacher for which he obtained a degree for.
Allegedly his future wife has left him, and everyone in the community knows what a stupid

thing he did. I don't think we need to spend hundreds of thousands to incarcerate someone who is really paying a price. I hope Mr Shepard gets back on track, and the students recover from this ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 18, 13 4:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
We have our rights to our own opinions and I think you are wrong. He should have gone to jail for some time -- even if minimal. I just think if it was my daughter - I would want the death penalty! Obviously extreme but as a parent….. do not hurt my children!
By News1171 (3), east quogue on Dec 18, 13 5:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
This wasn't stupid this was disgusting. He admitted to getting sexually excited to tape the girls. He did this to himself, he is a predator. How long had he been doing it? How long would he have continued and what else would he have done if he hadn't been caught. To blow his behavior off as a "ridiculous act" is wrong. What he did was violate the trust of the students, he violated these young women by taping them for his own pleasure. More than stupid - dangerous for the young girls in his ...more
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Dec 19, 13 4:53 PM
I think jail time would be an appropriate punishment in this case. Let this creep experience what it is like to have someone monitor every move he makes. The only difference is, he would know he is being watched---these teens had no idea.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Dec 18, 13 5:58 PM
Mr Shepard told probation officers he was "sexually excited" when he set up the camera to tape the girls. Doesn't this scare the crap out of anyone with a young girl in their family? Don't we want this person off our streets? I wonder if the locals and local business who was raising money for his defense fund reflect on this when they consider what to do with the money they raised?
By realistic (472), westhampton on Dec 18, 13 6:35 PM
4 members liked this comment
Some jail time would be appropriate. We are talking about violating children.

By BrendanByrne (2), Riverhead, New York on Dec 18, 13 8:05 PM
What is most disturbing is that many teachers from Westhampton Beach school - and surrounding schools - immediately ran to the defense of this teacher when this happened. They seemed not to consider at all that the girls were telling the truth. They ran to defend one of their own. That is the disgrace in this whole episode and it should continue to stain the reputations of teachers in the school district.
By local12 (34), Remsenburg on Dec 18, 13 11:02 PM
Not just teachers but students and other parents. The victims were harassed and terrorized by students and other parents. I think those people owe the victims and their families a LARGE PUBLIC APOLOGY.
By Terbear (77), Southampton on Dec 19, 13 4:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why is it always the gym teachers?
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Dec 19, 13 7:00 AM
Absolutely disgusted. This pedophile should have received jail time in addition to a much longer period of probation. Thank you prosecutor Jim Chalifoux for fighting the good fight, and shame on the judge.
By cush870 (31), Westhampton Beach on Dec 19, 13 8:33 AM
3 members liked this comment
do the victems fathers get some alone time with this scum?
By llimretaw (118), watermill on Dec 20, 13 9:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
if he admitted to being "sexually excited" doesn't that make it a premeditated crime? If so why not jail time? If not we have become a most "forgiving liberal country and no one is wrong just for thoughts and/or deeds they commit.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Dec 21, 13 5:59 PM
this disgusting thing needs to register as a sex offender. Oh if we only lived in times where we could stone people like him to death. If that had been my child, he wouldn't be alive today!
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Dec 26, 13 2:49 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Dec 26, 13 2:49 PM
Thomas Sheppard, 28, of Speonk also will be required to register as a Level 1 sex offender for the next 20 years
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Dec 26, 13 3:16 PM

Bill O'Reilly also has been known to get a bit "Excited" with this type of Bottom Feeder....
Especially he encourages the compassionate sentencing magistrate to join him on his show so he might be able to hear their lame justification.. And then proceed to shred them before millions.
By kahuna (70), Tampa on Dec 26, 13 3:25 PM