Ex-principal gets prison time for secretly recording girls

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (AP) — A former Vermont high school principal accused of secretly recording teenage girls was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Mann handed down the sentence to Dean Stearns, 57, that includes an additional five to 10 years suspended, and probation upon his release, the Valley News reported.

Stearns' sentencing follows a deal he struck in 2018 when he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of promoting a sexual recording or image and five misdemeanor counts of voyeurism.

The charges stemmed from a period between fall 2016 and late 2017, when prosecutors said Stearns used hidden cameras to film five teenage girls in his Sharon home.

Prosecutors said two of the girls were living with him temporarily, and three were visiting friends at his house. Stearns was arrested after one of the victims discovered the camera in the bathroom in November 2017.

He addressed the victims in court Thursday, apologizing for the way he “exploited the situation.”

His defense attorney Michael Shane argued Thursday that Stearns was a loving father and husband who had already suffered the consequences when he lost his job and faced his status as a felon.

The judge responded that Stearns' actions stole “the innocence and trust” of young girls who were just starting their lives.