Lawrence Joynes, a former Maryland music teacher, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing more than a dozen young children at an elementary school. The 27-year public school system veteran spoke about his actions for the first time in a Montgomery County court on Friday, according to multiple reports.
“I’m so sorry I betrayed your faith and your trust in me,” the 56-year-old said, addressing his victims in a statement, according to MSN. “I never, ever meant to harm any of you physically or emotionally. For any damage, any shame, any trauma that I’ve caused, I apologize from the depths of my soul.”
Joynes wept in the courtroom as he sat just feet away from some of his victims, but he did not look at them, WUSA reports.
In May, Joynes pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 14 elementary school students, a majority of whom were in kindergarten through second grade. Joynes filmed the victims in sexual poses and edited the footage to include vulgar captions, according to MSN.
He was arrested in 2013 after police found the child pornography in both his home and his New Hampshire Estates Elementary School classroom, according to a police statement. A teacher at the elementary school told the Washington Post in 2013 that she reported the former teacher to school officials twice for inappropriate behavior including tickling students and locking himself inside his classroom with first-grade girls.
The Post reports that many of the offenses took place in Joynes’ classroom during school hours. At the sentencing on Friday, Joynes described himself as ashamed, frightened and remorseful, and he said he had been sexually abused himself, according to MSN.
He said he had been abused sexually and verbally as well as beaten as a child, and he told the court that he abused drugs and alcohol most of his life in an effort to cope.
“I’m a flawed, flawed man,” he said.
But assistant Montgomery County State’s Attorney Timothy F. Hagan Jr. questioned Joynes’ account, noting that he never shared the alleged abuse during lengthy police interviews, according to MSN. Hagan described Joynes as “a masterful manipulator” who “knew exactly what he was doing” when he took advantage of the young girls.
“He grooms children to sexually abuse them,” Hagan said of the 56-year-old, according to MSN. “That’s what he used his position for – and it lasted for years in the schools.”
Now, Joynes will serve a minimum of 20 years in prison before he is eligible for parole. In addition, Joynes will face a separate sentencing in the fall for charges stemming from a lengthy sexual relationship he had with a 15-year-old girl in the ’90s.
At the sentencing, Hagan read a statement from one of Joynes’ victims, a young girl who said the abuse made her feel “dirty” and “messed up.” And the father of another victim spoke about the effect the abuse of his now-teenage daughter has had on his family, according to WUSA.
“I feel like he killed us all, ” the father reportedly said. “He destroyed everything.”
Joynes’ attorney, Mary K. Siegfried, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.
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