Ex-Punahou teacher held on sex charges
The federal indictment says he tried to entice kids on the Internet
A former Punahou School drama teacher is being held in a Virginia jail on federal charges that he used the Internet to try to have sex with eight children in the past two years, including one from Hawaii.
Richard Neal Willetts, who taught at Punahou in the 2003-04 school year, is awaiting trial on one count of coercion and enticement and one count of sexual exploitation of children, according to an indictment unsealed last month in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Va.
Willetts, who pleaded not guilty in his initial court appearance, is being held at the Central Virginia Regional Jail and faces a minimum 10-year sentence if convicted.
The grand jury indictment says Willetts tried to persuade children to have sex with him and to engage in sexual acts and pose for photos. The crimes began about September 2005 and included at least one 16-year-old, the indictment said.
One of the alleged victims is from Hawaii, said Heidi Coy, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. She did not know any more details, including when and how the investigation into Willetts began.
Willetts, 26, spent one year at Punahou's student-teacher mentoring program, a type of internship for young college graduates interested in becoming teachers, said school spokeswoman Laurel Husain. While at the school, he served as assistant director of the play "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
School officials are talking to employees who worked with Willetts to find out if a victim could have attended Punahou, Husain said.
"The safety of our students is a very serious concern," she said, adding that there had been no complaints against Willetts so far. "We will continue to check until everybody has been contacted."
Phone and e-mail messages seeking comment from Willetts' attorney were not returned.
Willetts had been living in the United Arab Emirates, where he headed a 150-student high school and middle school theater department for the American Community School of Abu Dhabi, according to an alumni newsletter from the Walsingham Academy in Williamsburg, Va.
Willetts graduated from a Catholic academy in 1999, taught at Punahou School for one year, then enrolled at the University of Virginia, where he earned a master's degree in teaching in 2006, according to the newsletter.