A lawyer representing a former Academy of the Holy Family student described disgraced history teacher Robert Pfeiffer as a "groomer" and a "predator" as Pfeiffer was sentenced Tuesday in New London Superior Court for sending sexually explicit text messages to the student in 2010.
Pfeiffer, 31, of Hebron had pleaded no contest to risk of injury to a minor in April as attorneys were selecting a jury for a trial in New London Superior Court. Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman offered him a five-year prison sentence, fully suspended, and five years of probation in exchange for the felony conviction and his inability to teach for the next five years.
The victim, who has since graduated at the top of her class and moved out of state, did not want to testify against Pfeiffer at his trial. Attorney Bernard Steadman, who served as a guardian ad litem for the teen, said she is thriving despite the incident with Pfeiffer and other trauma in her life. Steadman did not buy Pfeiffer's defense that he had "sexted" with the girl to see if she would be able to "say no" to boys in the future.
"He is, as I saw him, a groomer," Steadman said. "He was grooming her. He's a predator."
Pfeiffer's attorney, Michael A. Blanchard, called it a highly contested case. He said Pfeiffer is a highly intelligent man who went through much of his life undiagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. He said Pfeiffer lives at home with his parents.
Judge Susan B. Handy said the only reason she accepted the plea deal involving no prison sentence and no registry as a sex offender is "to spare the victim" from having to testify at trial.
"Your behavior was extraordinarily inappropriate, whatever the rationale was," Handy told Pfeiffer. "You were a teacher, and as a teacher you were not to perpetrate but to protect. And you perpetrated. You did not protect."
Hired by the all-girls Catholic school in August 2008, Pfeiffer resigned in April 2010 after a 14-year-old student's friends saw the texts and threatened to report him, according to an arrest warrant affidavit from state police Detective Christopher Greer.
Pfeiffer also had a late-night meeting with the girl in a basement room at the school, according to the affidavit, which says the girl brought along a friend and that she jerked her hand away when Pfeiffer attempted to make her touch him.
On April 17, 2010, Pfeiffer went to the principal, Sister Loreto Beckstein, and told her he was "texting hypothetical scenarios to ensure that (the girl) would be able to say 'no' to boys in the future." Pfeiffer then resigned, according to the affidavit.