Northwest NEWS

March 20, 2000

Local News

Teacher admits molestations

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   BOTHELL--John Carl Leede, 49, former Kokanee Elementary School teacher, has admitted to "repeated, intentional, and offensive" touching of seven 11- to 13-year-old girls, including repeated fondling of their breasts.

   The allegations were brought to police attention last May by parents of the girls, who were current and former students from his fifth- and sixth-grade classes. Leede had denied the girls' allegations until he was formally charged on Mar. 15 in Snohomish County Superior Court.

   Snohomish County investigators found that Leede, over an 11-year period, had been repeatedly admonished by supervisors and other teachers about touching students. During that span, many parents, students, and teachers had complained to administrators about his common practice of hugging and massaging girl students and having them sit on his lap. Fellow teachers said he made inappropriate remarks to them about girls' physical development. He was moved from school to school during his 22-year Northshore career.

   Under a plea bargain that will suspend all but three months of a seven-year sentence, Leede pleaded guilty to six counts of fourth-degree assault. On an additional count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, Leede negotiated an Alford Plea, under which he did not admit guilt, but conceded that a jury would likely find him guilty. That charge was necessary to classify him as a sex offender.

   His attorney, David Allen, said Leede "wanted to avoid a trial, given the agony it would cause everybody, including his students and his family."

   Judge David Hulbert will sentence Leede on May 3. Under the plea bargain, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 90 days in jail, with seven years of supervision after release; three years of sex offender treatment; payment of $1,750 in fines; and registration as a sex offender.

   Leede also agreed to forfeit his state teaching certificate. As a convicted sex offender, his teaching days, anywhere, are likely over.

   If a school district in any state asked why Leede left after 22 years at Northshore, the district would send his complete file, said district spokesperson Dr. Pamela Steele. Still, he remains on the Northshore School District payroll until June, under assignment to the district business office, but without student contact.

   Steele praised Leede's work as "high quality and helpful," and he will continue working there unless the court orders otherwise or any of his co-workers protest his presence, in light of his admissions. Either way, he will get paid until the end of the school year, under a legally binding agreement with the district.

   Since no criminal charges had been filed before school started last fall, Leede and Northshore agreed that he would receive his $55,000 salary for the 1999-2000 school year, on condition he drop a grievance and appeal of his firing and that his resignation would take effect at the end of the school year.

   The district made the binding agreement to stop the emotional drain on students, parents, and staff that the appeal process would have entailed, said Steele. The uncertainty of an extended appeal process could also have cost taxpayers a great deal more than a year's salary, she said.