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Ex-Ridgeview Teacher Gets 8 Years In Prison For Sexually Assaulting Former Student

David Rotchford
McLean County Sheriff's Department
David Rotchford, 33, of Normal, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual assault in March in a plea agreement with the state.

A former Ridgeview High School teacher was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday for sexually assaulting a former student.

David Rotchford, 33, of Normal, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual assault in March in a plea agreement with the state. In exchange for the guilty plea, the state agreed to limit the recommended prison term to eight years. Without a plea deal, the charge carried a possible sentence of 15 years.

Sixteen other counts were dismissed by the state under the plea agreement.

In his comments to Rotchford, Judge Casey Costigan indicated the crimes warranted the longest term available under the plea deal.

“You used your professional reputation to ingratiate yourself to these victims,” Costigan told the former educator.

The sexual relationships with two girls and text exchanges with others represented a violation of trust “at the highest level,” said Costigan.

Evidence that Rotchford, who is married, was involved with two students for at least two years is especially incriminating, said the judge.

“This was not a one-time situation. It was a situation where you had multiple opportunities to walk away and didn’t,” Costigan told the defendant.

The case against the former music teacher and girl’s basketball coach surfaced in June 2020 after McLean County Sheriff’s Department detectives received complaints of inappropriate text messages sent to former female students at the school located in Colfax.

Rotchford was arrested in July 2020.

In his statement to the judge on Tuesday, Rotchford apologized to his family, friends and the victims.

Rotchford singled out his wife and infant daughter in his remarks. His actions, he said, “turned their world upside down.”

The defendant said he initially replaced a popular Ridgeview teacher and worked hard to fill the void for elementary students. When he began work with high schoolers, he said he made “the conscious decision to treat them as almost equals,” a decision he admitted was a serious mistake.

“I never meant any harm. I never meant to hurt anybody,” Rotchford said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Lawson asked for the maximum sentence of eight years, arguing that Rotchford minimized his misconduct in his meeting with court services staff who prepared a pre-sentence report. The prosecutor acknowledged Rotchford’s clean criminal record.

The victims opted not to submit victim impact statements to the court, said Lawson. “They just really want to put it behind them,” she said.

Defense lawyer Stephanie Wong sought four years for Rotchford. But for a state law mandating prison for the offenses, Rotchford would be a candidate for probation, Wong argued.

“Both were long-term relationships,” Wong said of Rotchford’s connection to the two students with whom he had sex. “He cared deeply about them. This is not a person without a soul,” she said.

Rotchford must serve 85% of the prison term. He will be on the state’s sex offender registry for life. He also was ordered to pay $2,100 to one of the victims to cover counseling fees.

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Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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