When Franklin Delano Perry was hired in the summer of 2003 as Herndon High School's color guard choreographer, he seemed like the ideal coach for the job. He had worked with color guard teams in several countries. He had won awards for his teams' performances. And he was liked and trusted by the students.
But Perry used that trust, along with an offer of money, to proposition at least three male Herndon High students for sex. And in one case, he used his position to coerce a student to engage in oral sex, according to a grand jury indictment.
"Essentially what he did was say he'd give them $200 to perform oral sex on them," said Toni Fay, the assistant commonwealth's attorney prosecuting Perry's case in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Last Wednesday, Perry entered an Alford plea for one count of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy and for three counts of soliciting sex from minors. An Alford plea is used when a defendant maintains his innocence, but acknowledges there is adequate evidence to convict him.
Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Marcus Williams found Perry guilty on all four felony charges. He will be sentenced on Jan. 14 and will face a maximum of 35 years in prison.
"The court finds the evidence is substantial and overwhelming," Williams said.
Perry was arrested at his Reston home on April 14 after one of his teenage victims complained to Herndon High officials who then called in the Fairfax County Police Department.
Perry was not a Fairfax County Public School employee. He was hired by Richard Bergman, Herndon High School's band director and was paid by the school's Band Parents Association.
ACCORDING TO PROSECUTORS, Perry told the teenagers he would leave his position as choreographer unless they would have sex with him. In one case it worked, Fay said, because the team had gone through several choreographers in recent years and some team members were eager to keep Perry at any cost.
Perry repeatedly attempted to coerce the students from last January until the end of March. Fay said there were more victims, but he will not be charged in their cases because of a provision in his plea agreement.
"We are aware of a group of kids who stepped forward and, to my knowledge, we are not going to prosecute those cases," Fay said.
But if more victims come forward in the future, Fay said Perry may be prosecuted for more charges.
At his plea hearing on Wednesday last week, Perry disputed the facts of the prosecution's case.
"I'm pleading guilty, but for reasons other than what I'm being charged with," he said. "Some of (Fay's) facts are inaccurate."
What makes Perry's case particularly heinous, Fay said, is that he was supposed to oversee his victims in a custodial relationship.
"He was the coach of the team. He won their trust," she said. "They thought he would be good for the team."
Perry has been held without bond at the Fairfax County jail in Fairfax since his April arrest. He will remain incarcerated at the jail until his sentencing hearing.
Because of the nature of the crime and because minors were involved, the Connection has withheld the identity of the victims. Some of the victims and their families are expected to testify at Perry's sentencing in January.
WHEN PERRY was hired, the experienced choreographer appeared to be the perfect man for the job, Bergman said.
The county checked Perry's background and discovered nothing indicating he would take advantage of students. Perry was not listed on Virginia's sex offender database.
Since Perry's arrest, a new color guard instructor has been hired, Bergman said. Staff members, parents and the students are trying to put the situation behind them, he said.
"We are glad that this has finally been resolved, and anticipate a successful future with the Pride of Herndon band program," Bergman said.