SCRANTON — A former band teacher from Lackawanna County was about to go on trial Monday but at the last minute decided to enter a guilty plea.
He admitted having a sexual relationship with one of his students.
A pool of potential jurors was ready to go for jury selection in a trial that could have lasted all week, but the defendant, Matthew Stevens of Forest City, decided he’d rather plead guilty than stand trial on some serious child sex abuse charges.
Stevens admitted to having sexual contact with one of his former students.
Former Lakeland High School band teacher Matthew Stevens and his attorney stalled jury selection for his trial while they considered the details of a plea deal that Stevens had previously refused.
He hesitated slightly when asked by a judge to admit to having sex with a 17-year-old female student in 2012, but with his admission Stevens pleaded guilty to corruption of minors.
“I think most importantly is his acceptance of responsibility. From her perspective, both girls were willing to do what was necessary to make sure that he would be held accountable for what he did,” said Lackawanna County Deputy A.D.A. Jen McCambridge.
During a trial, jurors would have heard from Stevens’ former student who said she had sexual contact with Stevens inside the band room at Lakeland High School when she was 17.
The judge also planned to allow testimony from another woman who said she also had sex with Stevens when she was underage.
It was that witness who became wrapped up in a scandal surrounding one of the case’s lead investigators: former Scott Township Police Chief James Romano. Romano was arrested on a witness tampering charge after allegedly having sex with that same woman.
Stevens’ arrest and the following scandal weighed heavily in the Lakeland community. Many people told Newswatch 16 they are happy their school will not be the focus of a lengthy criminal trial.
“I think it’s still wrong that it happened. It’s actually quite disturbing on many levels, but I can understand the viewpoint of him, the fact that he’s going to try and lie about it as much as he can but as soon as he goes in front of the judge, it’s a whole other ballgame,” said Daniel Dimauro of Jermyn.
As a part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to not press charges against Stevens for his alleged contact with that second young woman.
Stevens will have to register as a sex offender but we don’t know for how long. That will all come out at his sentencing which is expected in a few months.
Stevens also faces the possibility of up to seven years behind bars.