A former teacher who spent almost three years in prison for raping a teenage student will spend more time behind bars for failing to register as a sex offender and violating parole.
Cara L. Dickey, 35, was sentenced Thursday by State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski to up to 12 months in Erie County Correctional Facility, Alden. That sentence will be served concurrently with an 18-month sentence for violating the conditions of her parole.
Dickey didn’t speak during the sentencing proceeding before Michalski, who also had sentenced her on the rape charges four years ago.
Defense attorney Chrysanthe Vergos, of the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, said she wanted to talk about Dickey’s “very long and hopefully successful road to redemption.”
Dickey had been “a model parolee” following her release from Albion Correctional Facility, a medium-security women’s prison, in late February 2012, Vergos said.
But according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, an administrative law judge conducted a final parole revocation hearing for Dickey on March 19, and a decision was made to return Dickey to custody for 18 months.
Parole violations considered during the proceeding were: contact with a minor, associating with another parolee, tampering with a GPS device, absconding, failure to comply with treatment program requirements, out of area and solicitation. The last two violations are related to the brief time Dickey spent in the Chicago, Ill., area earlier this year.
Dickey spent part of her parole living in transitional housing operated by Back to Basics Outreach Ministries on William Street. Minister Cal Fenner, who serves as a court advocate and handles public relations for the organization, spoke on Dickey’s behalf during sentencing.
“I never found any problem with her,” said Fenner, who added that he was saddened because he didn’t know about the registration requirement and could have helped Dickey with that.
“I know that Cara can be very productive down the road,” Fenner said afterward. Dickey had performed clerical and computer work at the ministry and displayed “a very good work ethic,” he said.
But in January, Dickey disappeared from the halfway house and ditched the electronic ankle bracelet that was a condition of her parole. As a convicted sex offender, she is required to register a change of address within 10 days but failed to do so.
She was arrested in February near Chicago after more than a month on the run with another ex-con with whom she had a romantic relationship while in prison.
That woman was Candice L. Brighon, a fellow parolee who had been convicted in Niagara County Court of attempted burglary and weapon possession charges. Brighon is currently in Taconic Correctional Facility in Westchester County, where she will remain until the end of May 2014.
Two months ago, Dickey pleaded guilty, as charged, to a felony count of failure to register or verify as a sex offender. The maximum penalty she faced on that charge was four years in prison.
A mother of three – the eldest a boy now in his teens – Dickey was married and living in Clarence while teaching at South Buffalo Charter School.
In June 2008, she had been repeatedly warned about an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old West Seneca boy who attended the school.
The relationship became public after Dickey and the boy briefly went missing the afternoon she was suspended from her job.
Dickey subsequently was arrested on multiple charges, including promoting a suicide attempt. Police said she had supplied rum and over-the-counter medications to the boy for a suicide pact the pair had made.
Two statutory rape charges followed that fall, after authorities learned that Dickey maintained contact with the boy, in violation of a court order. She pleaded guilty to the rape charges and was sentenced to two concurrent four-year prison terms in April 2009.
A sentencing memorandum submitted by Dickey’s attorney came under fire from Assistant District Attorney Roseanne Johnson, chief of the Special Victims Bureau.
Johnson began by criticizing the late filing of the memorandum, which the District Attorney’s Office received Wednesday afternoon – approximately five weeks after the deadline. “That is completely unprofessional,” she said.
But the content was even more problematic to Johnson.
“The submission is fraught with factual inaccuracies, hearsay claims and significant omissions,” Johnson said. “Most disturbing,” she continued, was the statement that Dickey had engaged in “consensual sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy.”