A former schoolteacher who molested 15 boys — including participants in a children’s camp that he founded — received sentences totaling 931 years in prison Friday, after asking God for vengeance against those who testified against him.
But before the sentence was handed down, prosecutor Alison Chandler led a round of applause in the courtroom for the 15 “survivors” — listed as John Does in court documents — whom Ron Guinto was convicted of molesting.
“We may have been victims at one point, but after overcoming this roller coasting of emotions, we need to call ourselves something better than the word victim; we need to be called survivors,” said one young man, whom Guinto molested before becoming a teacher. He later added: “I have been working to remind myself that it was not my fault, that he was a monster.”
Guinto, 34, taught at Making Waves Academy in Richmond and founded a youth program called Camp Epic. Police say he used the camp as a ruse to get along with his preferred victim type, mostly boys ages 11 to 12. He was convicted of everything from inappropriate touching to acts involving oral and anal sex.
Speaking in court before he heard from his victims, Guinto read a roughly 15-minute statement saying prosecutors had used “deceit” and false accusations to convict him. As members of his family wept, he thanked them for standing by him during the trial. He said he’s accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, admitted to being a “sinner,” but said the case against him was a “character assassination.”
He closed his remarks by reading verses from the Bible, asking God not to let “my treacherous enemies rejoice at my defeat,” later adding, “May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame.”
“Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about. …Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them,” Guinto said.
Later in the hearing, Judge Barry Baskin said Guinto’s “manipulative, cold … and cruel” statement removed any doubt in Baskin’s mind that he deserved a life sentence.
Baskin said that Guinto had violated a “precious trust” in society, that schools be a safe place for children. He said Guinto was the “definition of an evil predator,” that Guinto had shown no compassion or remorse, and that Camp Epic was a “predatory scheme.” He said Guinto still owed his victims an apology.
“Instead of children having epic fun, kids were subject to traumatic events of epic proportion,” Baskin said, later adding, “You should spend the rest of your life behind bars.”
The sentence virtually guarantees Guinto will die in prison. Guinto said receiving a life sentence “was like giving me a terminal illness,” and that he had nothing more to look forward to in life.
Baskin also ordered him to pay $1 million in restitution per victim.
Before the sentence was handed down, dozens of people spoke for hours about how the molestation had impacted their lives. The Does and their families spoke of dealing with stress, depression and even physical illness. The courtroom was packed with family members, and some in the audience were forced to sit in the jury box. Several jurors from Guinto’s trial also attended.
Finally, prosecutor Chandler said one of the boys had requested to go last. He walked up to the podium.
“I just want to end this by saying I forgive you Mr. Guinto, and I want you to know that,” he said. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”