A former language arts teacher was found guilty Thursday on two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and one count of criminal sexual assault after engaging in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student dating back to March 2009.
Dale Fry, 56, of Woodridge, will face sentencing on all three counts at 1 p.m. Sept. 7 before 16thCircuit Court Judge John A. Barsanti, who found Fry guilty after a two-day bench trial this week. Fry was denied bond and immediately taken into custody by Kendall County Sheriff’s deputies.
During closing arguments Thursday, Kendall County Assistant State’s Attorney Nemura Pencyla said Fry abused his position as a teacher to enter into a relationship with the student.
“The defendant chose to abandon his responsibilities as a teacher and someone who is trusted to protect children,” Pencyla said.
The relationship between the two began in February 2009 on the girl’s 17th birthday when Fry obtained the girl’s cell phone number and began texting her, Pencyla said.
The relationship escalated when Fry kissed the girl in an elevator in the school in March 2009, prosecutors say. He kissed and fondled the girl’s breasts, again on school grounds, in May 2009, Pencyla said.
On Sept. 10, 2009, Fry forced the girl to perform a sex act after school in his classroom, Pencyla said. A school custodian walked in during the incident and said she witnessed Fry tucking in his shirt and buttoning his pants.
Fry told the custodian he and the girl had been placing items on a high shelf in the classroom and his shirt tail had become untucked.
Pencyla also pointed to a string of more than 700 text messages between Fry and the victim as evidence of an inappropriate relationship.
“Warning bells were clanging all over the place on this,” he said.
Defense attorney Phil Nathe argued the prosecution had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, saying Fry told the victim after their first kiss that physical contact was inappropriate.
Nathe said the victim admitted to being in love with Fry and that she suffered from depression and low self-esteem. Further, Nathe said it is not uncommon for teachers to electronically communicate with students, including through text message.
“There is no denying they were unique in terms of a student/teacher relationship,” Nathe said. “My client took an active role with his brightest students.”
The victim came forward with allegations of the abuse in February 2010, and Oswego police collaborated with and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on the investigation.
Fry was immediatley placed on leave after the allegations surfaced and resigned shortly thereafter, according to Oswego police.
Editor's note: The sentencing date in this story has been changed.
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