Prison ordered for former Suring teacher

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Grimes pleaded no contest to sexual assault of a student by school staff

Warren Bluhm,

Former Suring teacher Timothy David Grimes is escorted into Oconto County Judge Michael T. Judge’s courtroom, where he was sentenced to prison April 2 for sexual assault of a student by school staff. (Times Herald photo by Warren Bluhm)

A former Suring High School teacher has been sentenced to spend up to four years in prison, followed by six years of extended supervision, for having a sexual relationship with a female student.

Oconto County Judge Michael T. Judge handed down a stricter sentence than either the prosecution or defense recommended for Timothy David Grimes, 24, who pleaded no contest in February to two counts of sexual assault of a student by school staff.

Four other counts were dismissed but read into the record to consider at sentencing, and Judge noted that the criminal complaint quotes Grimes as conceding he may have had as many as 10 to 20 sexual encounters with the 17-year-old girl.

“Because of the gravity of the offense, I believe that this is a minimum sentence that I should give you for what you have been charged and convicted of in this matter,” Judge said as he adjourned the April 2 sentencing hearing.

The court session began with the victim’s mother reading a letter from the girl, who said it all started because she had a crush on Grimes, a friend of her stepfather’s who often stayed overnight at their house.

”Tim would come into my room at night after everyone was in bed and do things to me and have me do things to him,” the girl wrote. “I told him to stop and that I didn’t like it, and he said no, he liked where we were.”

She said Grimes left bruises on her arms and body, and she regularly wore long sleeves and pants “so my parents and the school wouldn’t ask questions.”

The experience has left the girl deeply depressed, unable to enjoy certain music and movies or go to places that remind her of what he did, she wrote.

“I lost all of my friends when it hit the news; people treat me like this is my fault,” the girl said. “No matter how much time he gets, he’ll be able to live his life and start over. Me, not so much.”

District Attorney Edward D. Burke Jr. asked for a sentence of two years of initial confinement and three years of extended supervision on the first count, followed by five years of probation for the second count.

Burke told the judge that Grimes had betrayed not just the victim and her family but the entire community.

“One of the few places that we hope our children and pray our children can be safe is school,” Burke said, acknowledging that there had been “some back and forth” with the defense as to whether the sexual contact was consensual. “That person that we entrust with our children has to have the wherewithal to say, ‘It ain’t gonna happen.’”

Grimes had led “an exemplary life” up until this, but the court has to send a message that such behavior is not acceptable by anybody who’s placed in a position of trust, Burke said.

Defense attorney Jonathan Carver Smith argued against sending Grimes to prison, saying that he acknowledges the girl is a victim but that the relationship was more like a boyfriend-girlfriend situation. He spent several minutes reading texts that he said not only illustrated that contention but indicated that her parents were aware and encouraged the relationship.

Smith suggested Grimes’ position as a teacher is not as relevant in that, because he was a friend of the girl’s stepfather, it’s possible the relationship may have developed even without the student-teacher dynamic.

”This isn’t the only teacher case I’ve had, but I do think it’s different than some of the more traditional ones we have where a person is specifically using that position in order to groom or to have access to groom an individual,” Smith said. “I think this is a separate scenario.”

For those reasons, the defense attorney asked Judge to consider imposing and staying a sentence with a period of probation and perhaps some time in the Ozaukee or Milwaukee county jail, near the Brown Deer home where he moved after being released on bail.

Given his chance to make a statement, Grimes spoke for several minutes about how his time in Suring coincided with a “dark time” in his life that took him away from positive influences in his life, including God, family and his lifelong friends — relationships that he said have been restored since his arrest.

”I did take this opportunity to look at my flaws that I’ve had in my life but also identify who and what truly matters in my life and the person that I truly want to be, because this experience really was a major wake-up call for me that I have learned so much from,” he said. “And I will never go down this dark path ever again in my life.”

Before passing sentence, Judge told Grimes his relationship with the girl created “angst, stress, embarrassment and upset for both families,“ and through it all, the teacher should have been “the adult in the room,” given he had the experience and training to avoid such a tragic situation.

It’s not at all unusual for a student to have a crush on a teacher, but teachers have a responsibility not to take advantage, the judge said.

”Do I think — do I know — that you were schooled, instructed, addressed, how to do that, how to deflect it, how to talk to a school counselor, all those things? You bet you were. I know you were,” Judge said. “Again: Who was the adult in the room?”

The judge said he received several letters from Grimes’ hometown friends and family attesting to his good character and asking for leniency, including a letter from the CEO of a company where Grimes worked while he was out on bail, saying he would be welcomed back.

“But I received not one recommendation about your character from Suring or from Oconto County,” he noted. “At some point, you should have said no. You never did.”

A probationary sentence “would depreciate this offense,” and a prison sentence is necessary both as punishment and as a deterrence to others, Judge said.