US

Former Teacher Convicted of Child Molestation Avoids Jail Time

By Zachary Stieber

A former preschool teacher in Florida avoided additional prison time after pleading guilty to molesting a child.

Jayrico Hamilton entered the plea in March to three counts of lewd conduct on a child. He was sentenced on May 7 to 15 years of probation and required to register as a sex offender.

The child Hamilton admitted to molesting was 4 years old at the time of the abuse.

“We have to live every day with this. We have to live every day knowing what he put him through,” the victim’s mother said before the sentence was handed down, reported Spectrum News.

“We appreciate the acceptance of responsibility. We wish you luck, we want you to understand you’ve hurt us terribly, but you have another opportunity in life,” the boy’s father added. “Take advantage of the counseling that you’ll receive.”

Hamilton was originally charged with sexual battery on a child under 12; if tried on that charge, he faced up to life in prison.

The plea agreement enabled the lenient sentence. Hamilton was sentenced to 449 days in jail but was credited with time served so he will serve no additional jail time.

Circuit Judge Elaine Barbour said that the sentence was a downward departure from normal sentencing guidelines, according to WFTV. She added that there were a number of other conditions to Hamilton’s sentence, including that he is prohibited from entering Baldwin Park or Audubon Park or having any contact with the victim or his family.

In a statement, State Attorney Aramis Ayala said about the sentence: “We were able to reach this resolution because a courageous child stood up to an abuser. Because of the victim’s bravery, Jayrico Hamilton is designated a sexual offender for the remainder of his life and will be monitored 24 hours a day for the next 15 years.”

“When we extend plea offers, a variety of factors are weighed. While we strongly consider the most severe penalty, justice also requires consideration of potential trauma to the victim that is often caused by repetitively talking about the abuse. Most importantly, in this case the victim’s family supports this resolution and believe it is in the best interest of their child,” Ayala added.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Barbour spoke about how crimes against children are the toughest cases that come through her courtroom.

“I’m sorry for the pain that you’ve gone through,” she told the victim’s family.

According to an arrest warrant obtained by WKMG last year, multiple parents said Hamilton abused their 3- and 4-year-old children during nap time while working as a preschool teacher at Bright Horizons Child Care and Learning Center in Orlando.

The investigation started in 2017 when a 4-year-old boy told his parents that Hamilton molested him during nap time. Hamilton denied the abuse when interviewed but investigators identified another possible victim. The probe stalled when the child didn’t give consistent statements but was rebooted in January 2018 when the parents of another child told police that their son said in therapy that he was abused during nap time on a near-daily basis.

Another employee at the school told detectives that Hamilton would bring in new toys for the possible victim and seemed to ignore the other children. A second employee said she overheard him tell the child, “Don’t forget about our secret.”

The lawyer representing two families in a civil lawsuit against Hamilton said they found he followed at least 100 toddler-aged Instagram models, charging that Bright Horizons should have conducted a background check that included a probe of social media accounts.

The lawsuit said Bright Horizons didn’t conduct any background check, which would be a violation of Florida law. Hamilton previously worked in Virginia.

The lawsuit and another civil lawsuit against Bright Horizons are pending, reported the Sentinel.

A spokesperson said in a statement that the company’s ability to comment is “limited” because of the pending cases, but added that its employees had cooperated with authorities.

“Our heart is with the child and the child’s family for the pain and distress they have experienced,” the statement said. “Our first priority is always the safety and well-being of the children in our care.”