Former Principal Enters Guilty Plea

Dean Stearns appeared in court Tuesday to plead guilty to planting cameras in his home to record underage girls. (Photo by Eric Francis)

Stearns Takes Deal in Hidden Cameras Case

Saying “I’ll take the deal,” the former principal of the South Royalton High School, who had secretly videotaped a teenaged exchange student and her female friends with an array of tiny cameras hidden in everyday objects, reached a plea agreement with the state on Tuesday afternoon. Dean Stearns, 56, of South Royalton, who in years past headed up the VoTech center in Hartford and served as a captain on that town’s professional fire department, pled guilty to two felony counts of making recordings of a sexual nature of underaged girls and to five misdemeanor counts of voyeurism.

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Stearns had been facing three dozen similar charges, six of them felonies, after he was first arrested in November of last year, after a teenage exchange student uncovered the cameras that had been hidden in her bathroom at Stearns’ home, where she had been staying, and contacted authorities. Those additional charges are being dropped, as part of the plea agreement reached Tuesday.

Stearns will not be formally sentenced for some months, and will remain free on his pre-trial release conditions until the sentencing hearing. The outlines of the plea deal call for an overall 10-to-15-year prison sentence, with most, and even perhaps all, of that time suspended.

By the terms of the plea deal, when Stearns’ “contested” sentencing hearing is held, sometime next year, the state will be “capped” in its arguments before the judge, at a maximum of five years for Stearns to serve, while his defense attorney will be allowed to persuade the judge to lower that minimum. Some of Stearns’ victims and their parents are expected to speak to the judge at that final sentencing hearing.

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