Guilty plea in Net sex case
A former Hawaii drama teacher faces 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty yesterday to luring a minor in Virginia for sex over the Internet.
In a deal with federal prosecutors, Richard Neal Willetts, who taught at Punahou School in 2003-04, pleaded guilty to one count of enticement of a minor in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Va. A second count of sexual exploitation of children, including an alleged victim from Hawaii, was dropped.
Willetts, 26, initially denied charges in April that he used a computer while living in Virginia, Hawaii and the United Arab Emirates the past two years to try to have sex with eight children and persuade them to engage in sexual acts and pose for photos.
He pleaded guilty to writing sexually graphic e-mails to a 15-year-old student at Western Albemarle High School, where he taught in the 2005-06 school year, according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress. Willetts will be sentenced Dec. 4, said his attorney, Francis Lawrence.
"He apologized to the young person and the family of the young person he had caused anguish for," Lawrence said. "He has many people who are very supportive of him, and I think he will work over these many, many years that he is incarcerated to make himself a better person."
Willetts spent one year in Punahou's student-teacher mentoring program, a type of internship for young college graduates interested in becoming teachers. While at the private school, he served as assistant director of the play "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
An internal investigation by the school into Willetts found no complaints or concerns from people who worked with him, Punahou spokeswoman Laurel Bowers Husain said. Authorities did not contact the school about the case, she said.
Before being arrested in March, Willetts was in the United Arab Emirates as head of 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.
He graduated from a Catholic academy in 1999, taught at Punahou for one year, then enrolled at the University of Virginia, where he earned a master's degree in teaching in 2006.