Cara L. Dickey's teenage rape victim didn't appear in court Wednesday, but his pain and anger filled the courtroom as his two-page statement was read to the judge.
On a day when tears were shed on both sides of the courtroom and in the spectator section, State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski sentenced Dickey to four years in prison on her guilty plea to two statutory rape charges.
Before the sentencing, prosecutor Kristin A. St. Mary read the letter from the boy, now 15, whom Dickey has admitted raping twice.
"This lady is sick and selfish. She really had me not even caring about anyone but her," the boy wrote, admitting that he was obsessed with her. "She was preying on me to manipulate my mind, to then have sex with me."
The boy stated that he has been scarred for life.
"I can see and feel what was taken [from me] and what I will never get back," he added.
Authorities have said that Dickey, the boy's former eighth-grade teacher at South Buffalo Charter School, picked him up June 16 in South Buffalo, imprisoned him for about 21 hours and attempted to carry out a suicide pact with him by supplying him with alcohol and over-the-counter drugs.
Then last summer, after being ordered by a judge not to contact the boy, Dickey met with him numerous times, leading to the two second-degree rape charges to which she pleaded guilty in March.
"Referring to the day she and I attempted to take our lives, I'm still in shock and awe," the boy stated in the letter. "Life has too much to offer, and young people have too much to offer the world today to just take our own lives. Or, in my case, being persuaded that taking my life would be the right thing to do.
"She made me believe that I would be nothing without her, and she was going to kill herself no matter what, because she knew she was going to jail. This is how badly she manipulated my mind."
The boy, through St. Mary, then asked Michalski to sentence his former teacher to eight to 10 years in prison.
After the letter was read, the boy's father broke down several times in addressing the court and Dickey.
"Cara, you're a very selfish person for what you did to my child," the father said, in barely audible terms.
The father then pleaded with the judge to give Dickey more than the two to five years that she faced under state sentencing guidelines, calling that type of sentence a "slap on the hand."
"I'd like to see her go to jail for a very long time," the father said, regaining his composure. "Our son is sentenced for the rest of his life."
"Your honor, with all due respect, anything less than the maximum, . . . she really deserves the maximum," the father added.
In making the defense case, Daniel J. Chiacchia, Dickey's attorney, insisted that anti-depression medication prescribed by mental-health professionals two years ago likely played a role in his client's fall from grace.
Chiacchia painted a portrait of a young woman, with a horrible childhood, living the American dream by becoming a teacher, heading the social studies department as well as serving as the eighth-grade adviser at South Buffalo Charter School.
But, according to Chiacchia, Dickey, the married mother of three young children, began struggling with depression in 2007 and started feeling hopeless.
Chiacchia said that the Cara Dickey who was on the drug Celexa was not the Cara Dickey who had carved out a successful life and career in the first 29 years of her life.
Reading from several letters on her behalf, from a relative and a pastor, Chiacchia said her depression and her medication outweighed her ability to understand the consequences of her actions.
"She just couldn't see right from wrong," Chiacchia said.
Dickey, who seemed to be crying throughout most of the 29-minute court session, then addressed the court. She could find no other words than to say, "I'm sorry, deeply sorry," asking for forgiveness for what she called her betrayal.
"Your honor, I take full responsibility for my actions. They were my own," she told Michalski. "But my actions throughout that time do not define my character. I am a good person who made a bad mistake, and I'm a good mother, a great mother."
Michalski told Dickey that she let down her family, the victim's family and the entire community through her actions while in a position of trust.
"Your despicable actions must be punished appropriately," the judge said, before sentencing her to the two concurrent four-year sentences.
Under the plea deal Chiacchia worked out with the office of Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, Michalski issued an order of protection barring Dickey from contacting the boy or his family until October 2020.
Dickey also had to surrender her New York State teaching certificate and will become a state sex offender required to register with authorities wherever she moves.
Following the sentencing, attorney Robert D. Steinhaus, representing the victim's family, confirmed that he has filed a State Supreme Court lawsuit against Dickey and the South Buffalo Charter School, claiming that their malfeasance and negligence inflicted damage on the boy.e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com