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Merrick Pleads Guilty to Six Felony Counts; Sentenced to State Prison

Days before his scheduled court trial, former Lafayette schoolteacher Michael Merrick entered a guilty plea to six felony counts of lewd acts with a minor.

Former Stanley Middle School teacher Michael Merrick ended a city's speculation and may have eased a family's pain with an eleventh hour plea agreement that will see him sent to state prison for molesting a female student under his tutelage in 2010.

Merrick, 48, was scheduled for court trial on the charges Monday. Instead, he pleaded guilty to six felony counts in court Friday and was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison. He will be required to register as a sex offender.

The popular and respected teacher was arrested in October 2010 after admitting to letting a relationship with a 14-year-old girl "get out of hand" during private tutoring sessions on school property.

Investigators determined that the teacher had sent hundreds of text messages to the victim and eventually initiated a physical relationship with her.

On Friday, the former teacher told the court he took full responsibility for the molestation, and apologized to the victim and the community for violating a position of trust, Deputy District Attorney Johanna Schonfield said.

Merrick was ordered to pay restitution to the victim and to register as a lifetime sex offender.

He will be on parole upon his release from prison.

 

Bay City News Service contributed to this report

X January 21, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Y'all are shocked by only 5 years, 8 months? Mary Kay Latourneau's original sentence was 6 months in county jail & she didn't have to register as a sex offender. Her victim was 13. Debra Lafave received no jail time, although she does have to register as a sex offender. Her victim was 14. But, heck, you can murder two people in CA by shooting them in the head, eat some Twinkies, & only receive a seven year sentence. Nothing surprises me about our country's legal system anymore.
Miles VanBuren January 22, 2012 at 07:30 AM
JD the healing can only begin with open and frank dialog. Let the public have their say as long as they wish to speak on this story. You asked the public to wait and not judge this man until he had his day in court. Well we waited over a year and now you have the audacity to limit the discussion to 24 hours. I am scratching my head to understand just who are you trying to protect and why.
Sara January 22, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Well, the "public" didn't behave very well in this case and I think that, coupled with the fact that people felt compelled to say some pretty strange things behind the cloak of anonymity, led to the decision. And I think its pretty clear who they are trying to protect...... and why. They're trying to protect the children.
Tuhmaduh January 23, 2012 at 12:33 AM
I'm glad that Merrick decided to plead guilty. The 5 year+ sentence seem short but it did spare the student of the ordeal of having to testify in a trial. Equally important, he will no longer able to use his position as a teacher to take advantage of his students. As an aside, JD, I'm surprised that, as a journalist, you are taking such an heavy handed approach to the comments. JD, do you really want to have such a paucity of comments/reactions to the outcome for such an important case for the Lamorinda neighborhood? Because that seems to be the effect. I think we readers would like to decide the veracity/persuasiveness of comments. Freedom of speech - be they silly/groundless/mindless.
John K. January 23, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I'm also a big believer in freedom of speech. However we need to remember that there is a young girl and her family here in town probably still trying to recover from this despicable crime. Reading or hearing about many of the comments from previous articles must have been hard. If JD is being stern for that reason then I say kudos to him for that, it's the right thing to do.
Nancy Lee January 23, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I would assume that the families on both sides of this devastating and destructive case still live in the area. Being human, they are probably all too aware of the often cruel and unthinking comments posted in the wake of this crime and reading those comments only increased their pain. There was guilt here and it has been identified and assigned and, hopefully, punished correctly. We'll see. But there is also innocence here and innocence needs to be protected. I don't see free speech being curtailed, I see anonymous hate speech being monitored and kept from those who have done nothing to incur it. It is my understanding that prison is not a very nice place, no matter how seemingly short a time a judged person will spend there.... and hopefully justice will be done. Meanwhile let the innocents be and get on with their lives, it is the right thing to do.
David Smith January 24, 2012 at 05:11 AM
How very, very sad.
Eliz January 30, 2012 at 12:54 AM
It is complicated. I am sorry for everyone involved.
Maggie February 03, 2012 at 07:59 PM
He was my only positive influence at Stanley. He was definitely my favorite teacher and the reason I kept going. And then this happens...
lovelafayette February 11, 2012 at 08:00 PM
I wish Patch would stop respectfully calling Merrick "Former Stanley Middle School teacher" and call him what he is a convicted pedophile. Stanley students and teachers deserve better than constantly being associated with this creep in the press.
Eliz February 12, 2012 at 05:10 PM
He is in fact a former Stanley Middle School teacher.
Shannon W. February 12, 2012 at 08:33 PM
@ lovelafayette - Stanley students, parents and teachers need to be warned and perhaps reminded that even a teacher who, as Maggie so sadly thought was her "only positive influence at Stanley" and a "favorite teacher" can be, unbeknownst to that student and the community, a creep and pedophile who could damage lives. And as Eliz said - it's not a lie - he was a former Stanley Middle School Teacher.
lovelafayette June 19, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Wonder how Merrick got off so easy? Clayton middle school teacher very similar case just got 9 years, Moraga Correa 8. Merrick was clearly the worst of the 3 as he continued the psychological abuse for 2 additional years by not pleading guilty to begin with, fostering mean spirited gossip and doubts by some in the community about the victims truthfulness. Rich family, expensive attorney bought a gag order, closed proceedings, get out of jail 4 years early card. Justice, no.
Mack Sennet June 19, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Better justice than that received by the victims of Debra Lafave and Mary Kay Latourneau.
Carol Carrillo September 27, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Our job as community members is to protect children. The best way to do so is to educate ourselves about child abuse and how to prevent it! Education is Prevention!. The Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County works every day to prevent child sexual abuse before it happens. Visit our website to learn more. Carol Carrillo, MSW
lovelafayette October 19, 2012 at 04:02 PM
This is important to children in Lafayette, but not to Patch! CCT: "Lafayette School District employees received complaints of a popular Stanley Middle School teacher fondling female students before the teacher's 2010 arrest for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, according to a civil suit filed in Contra Costa Superior Court. The school district, Superintendent Fred Brill, Stanley Principal David Schrag and former teacher Michael Merrick are being sued by the girl who Merrick was found guilty of sexually abusing in his classroom over a four-month period. The lawsuit, filed in March, asks for money for past and future medical expenses, a punitive award and general damages. Rick Madsen, attorney for the victim and her parents, alleges in the civil complaint that Merrick had a known history of "inappropriate contact with female students." "In particular ... Brill, Schrag and the district and its employees had received complaints about Merrick in the past and were informed and knew, or reasonably should have known, that Merrick had previously and repeatedly touched and fondled other female students at Stanley Middle School," Madsen wrote. He alleged that employees failed to report the abuse as required by mandated reporting laws. "We are not prepared to comment on the likelihood of other victims," Madsen said in a phone interview. "The bottom line is, if the Lafayette School District had enforced their own rules, this would have never happened, and that's unconscionable." "

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