The former band director at Riverdale High School was sentenced Monday to seven years in a federal prison for secretly videotaping three female students as they changed clothes in the band room on campus.
In a letter, Steven Christopher Montes, 27, apologized to the victims. He was molested as a child but didn’t see that as an excuse for his criminal behavior.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill told Montes people who have been molested make a choice to victimize others.
In this case, O’Neill said, “You continued to spread the venom, and that’s why we are here and you are going to prison.”
“I understand,” Montes replied.
In addition to 84 months in prison, O’Neill ordered Montes to register as a sex offender and enroll in a sex offender treatment program while in prison. Once his prison commitment is completed, Montes will be on 10 years of probation, the judge said.
Montes was arrested in August 2014 on child pornography charges after a student found Montes’ camera in a room where she went to change clothes. The school immediately called the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s deputies, along with Homeland Security agents and a task force that focuses on Internet crimes against children, seized Montes’ computers from the school and went to his home in Visalia and took his computers and other media devices.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Montes with three counts of sexual exploitation of minors. But as part of a plea agreement, Montes pleaded guilty to one count of possession of sexually illicit material involving minors, said Fresno defense attorney Mark Broughton, who represented Montes.
The children trusted you. Their parents trusted you. When you breach the trust of this nature, it not only reflects on you, but on all people in a position of trust.
Judge Lawrence O’Neill in U.S. District Court in Fresno
According to court documents, from November 2013 through August 2014 and while serving as band teacher at Riverdale High, Montes took sexually explicit videos of three girls on campus. Riverdale school officials said Montes immediately resigned after being confronted with the allegations.
Montes taught at Riverdale during the 2013-14 school year. Before that, he was a teacher at Divisadero Middle School in Visalia.
In court Monday, Montes’ family sat on one side of O’Neill’s courtroom, while one of the victims and her family sat on the other side.
In asking for a stiff penalty, prosecutor Brian Enos said the victims were especially vulnerable.
Broughton asked for mercy for his client, saying no images of the victims were posted on the Internet. “It was purely a private matter,” he told the judge.
Broughton said that because Montes was molested while growing up, including by a former teacher, “he feels the pain of those young ladies and is sorry beyond words ... and hopes they soon can put this behind them.”
Montes faced up to 10 years in prison, but O’Neill, noting that Montes had no prior criminal history, gave him a lesser prison term. However, the judge had harsh words for Montes, saying his criminal behavior not only affected the victims, but impacted their families.
O’Neill had kind words for the victim in the courtroom, saying she should not go through life second-guessing what happened to her: “You did nothing wrong.”
Regarding, Montes’ letter, O’Neill said his apology, though appearing sincere, “does not change the hurt and damage to the victims.”
“Your behavior was reprehensible,” the judge said, noting that Montes was a high school employee who violated a position of trust. “The children trusted you. Their parents trusted you. When you breach the trust of this nature, it not only reflects on you, but on all people in a position of trust.”