TOLEDO — A former Lima schools teacher and Elida school board member was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday for sex crimes involving children, whose lives he left in ruins.
Brian Anders and his attorney attempted to downplay the damage to the victims, but U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary wouldn’t hear of it. Zouhary told Anders even if it appeared the teenage boys consented to sex, doing so was not right.
“What Brian may be missing is his role … these were minors you were targeting,” Zouhary said.
Zouhary sentenced Anders on four counts of receiving material involving the sexual exploitation of a child. The judge also ordered Anders be placed on 10 years probation upon release from prison to monitor his life so that he doesn’t commit a similar crime.
Anders’ attorney, John McMahon, said Anders is guilty only of receiving pictures over the internet. He questioned the amount of prison time Anderson could receive and said the state charges originally filed against him included a lot less time than the federal charges to which Anders entered a guilty plea. The state charges were dropped after the case moved to federal court.
“I ask the court to see Brian for what he is: An educated, professional gentleman who had a darker side that led us here,” McMahon said.
THE DARK SIDE
The judge asked Anders to explain his darker side and answer the question, “Why?”
“I thought that because they were consensual relationships or acquaintances that it was right,” Anders said.
Zouhary reminded him again the boys were children.
“You knew. You’re a teacher. You know the difference between an adult and minor,” Zouhary said. “You still pursued it. I’m trying to figure out the why.”
Anders struggled to answer the judge.
Zouhary told Anders he was once a respected teacher.
“That’s almost the Brian by day, but then I got the Brian by night who is a different, darker figure. I’m trying to understand how these two came together,” the judge said.
Anders answered, “Honestly, there are times I thought I wasn’t going to get caught.”
Zouhary told Andres he had to know he was jeopardizing his career, to which Anders said he knew.
Still, Anders could not answer why he did it.
Federal prosecutor Alissa Sterling said the reason was simple.
“That is because the defendant, Brian Anders, a 37-year-old man, chose to use the internet, social media, to seek out and find teenage boys he could have sex with,” Sterling said.
Sterling said Anders was very calculating, waiting for the victims to reach a certain age, 16, so he would not face more severe charges. He then used false profiles on Facebook, including a picture of someone else, to lure the boys in.
“This defendant sought out teenage boys to have sex with and he did on multiple occasions. That’s the answer,” Sterling said.
The judge said he will not forget the victims, several of whom have struggled since the crimes surfaced and nearly have committed suicide.
One of Anders’ victims was at the hearing and spoke about having suicidal thoughts. He also said it destroyed his family. His father chastised him and no longer speaks to him after finding out he was gay.
The judge told the young man he was not a failure and being a homosexual does not have a stigma.
“Your life is just beginning. It is no way over,” the judge said to the victim. “Let’s make this the closing chapter on this part of your life. Move forward and be positive.”
The 10-year sentence was part of a negotiated plea reached in exchange for Anders pleading guilty. Without the deal, Zouhary said Anders would have been sentenced to a term between 17.5 years and nearly 22 years in prison.
Sterling told the judge she continued to have concerns about Anders’ level of risk once he gets out. She said he continues to downplay the seriousness of the crime while repeating his belief it was not as bad because he had consent.
About a dozen people in the gallery were there on Anders’ behalf. The judge said numerous people, including co-workers, church members, and family of Anders, wrote letters on his behalf.
TALKS OF FAITH
Anders appeared in court in orange jail garb. He was jovial and smiling before and after the hearing. He told the judge he turned to his Christian faith, which is why he has a positive attitude.
“I cannot explain everything about God and why God allows certain things to happen,” he said. “God has not given up on me and has surrounded me with his love and peace.”
Anders also told the judge he realizes there is criticism of his actions and embarrassment.
“I regret some decisions that caused great pain and embarrassment,” Anders said.
The judge expressed further concern Anders did not understand the seriousness of his crimes and reminded Anders of that. Zouhary told Anders he hopes he can learn from all that has happened and turn his life around.
HOW IT STARTED
Anders was a music teacher at Freedom Elementary School and an Elida school board member from 2006 to 2013.
The Lima Police Department and the FBI began investigating Anders last year after receiving information in April from Allen County Children Services about a report of a child who was sexually abused. Investigators identified Anders as a suspect and learned he was an elementary school teacher in the Lima City School District, a music director at a local church, and social media said he was a director of a boys choir in Van Wert, according to court records.
Officials said Anders met the 15-year-old victim on an internet site in February 2014. They communicated and eventually met to have sex. The case led to a further investigation that led to the current charges.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.