BANGOR – A former Jackman kindergarten teacher who pleaded guilty to taking pornographic photographs of four female students will spend the next 16 years in prison.

Rob Mocarsky, 41, walked into U.S. District Court in handcuffs on Tuesday morning and smiled slightly at his wife before sitting at a table. About 30 people gathered inside the courtroom, including the family members of some victims.

During approximate two hours of testimony and arguments, Judge John Woodcock Jr. listened to the mother of a victim, who only gave her first name. The woman said her daughter will no longer take school pictures and is afraid to have her photo taken by someone she doesn’t know.

“I just feel there’s a lot of anger, pain and confusion,” she said. The Morning Sentinel does not identify victims without their consent.

Mocarsky also spoke, saying he had wanted to apologize in public for a long time.

“I do want to say I am so sorry,” he said. He said he was sorry first to God and then his wife, children, victims, their families, his colleagues and the Jackman community.

“I failed all of them,” he said. “I don’t just regret what I did, I truly hate who I was inside.”

People have asked him why he didn’t speak up before being arrested in January, he said.

“The big, big reason is the shame,” he said. “I wish I had, and I know I should have.”

He said the “grace of God” and counseling are helping him to become a better person. “I’m going to continue to keep my thoughts pure,” he said. “I will not let you down … I will not let God down again.”

Woodcock also heard from Mocarsky’s pastor and counselors who said Mocarsky would be unlikely to re-offend. They said Mocarsky was horrified and mystified by his own actions, which included taking sexually explicit photos of 5- and 6-year-old girls and storing them on his home computer.

Christopher York, Mocarsky’s therapist over the last several months, said Mocarsky moved beyond psychological explanations for his behavior and began to examine himself spiritually.

He was active in asking, “‘How did I lose my way?’” York said.

The next witness was Bill Irwin, director of Free Indeed Ministries, which helps men with sexual addictions through its Freedom Fighter Program. Irwin, who is blind, is famous for hiking from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. He brought his dog Colby with him to the stand.

“He took full personal responsibility,” Irwin said about Mocarsky, who entered his program after his arrest. “His level of awareness is 100 percent.”

Pastor David Smith, of the Church of the Nazarene in Jackman, described Mocarsky as distraught when he picked him up from Somerset County Jail after his initial arrest.

“He was even willing to send letters to the community,” Smith said. “He was heartbroken.”

Woodcock said his sentencing decision was more difficult because of Mocarsky’s commendable past and clean record. Though Mocarsky was accused of photographing students changing out of their clothes when he was an elementary school teacher in Grantham, N.H., he was never charged.

Mocarsky grew up in a home free from abuse, Woodcock told the court. His father is an architect, and his mother, who died three weeks ago, was a retired teacher. Mocarsky was ranked second out of 122 students in his graduating high school class in Connecticut.

He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1991 and later earned a master’s degree in science and environmental education from the University of Maine in 2002. His grade point average was 3.864 out of 4.0.

Prior to obtaining his degree, he taught full-time in Kazakhstan as a member of the Peace Corps. That’s where he met his wife, Katya, Woodcock said. Mocarsky began working at Forest Hills Consolidated School in Jackman in 2002 and in 2004 received the national Milken Family Foundation Award for outstanding teaching, which came with $25,000.

Mocarsky has no record of substance abuse or physical abuse, Woodcock said. He did not engage in sexual acts with children, nor did he distribute the photos on the Internet.

Mocarsky did, however, violate his authority as a teacher, Woodcock said. He had 150 to 300 pornographic photos on his computer, which included images of four of his female students posed in different costumes with their genitals exposed.

“You chose to teach kindergarten where you knew your students would be particularly naive, trusting, eager to please and susceptible to suggestion,” Woodcock said. “You violated the most basic premise of a teacher, which like a physician is, ‘Do no harm.’“

He said Mocarsky’s actions also dishonored the respected profession of teaching and particularly placed the work of male teachers under a cloud of undue suspicion.

“Your crime mandates a severe punishment,” he said.

Mocarsky nodded occasionally to the judge. His wife wiped away her tears.

The 16-year sentence will be followed by 10 years of supervised release. Mocarsky is required to register as a sex offender, not possess a firearm, submit to searches of his residence and electronic devices, participate in therapy and undergo random lie detector tests.

He faced a fine of up to $250,000, but Woodcock didn’t impose one, saying, “It seems to me your family’s going to struggle financially.”

Mocarsky faced between 15 and 30 years in prison for the federal charges of production of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Neumann said she was satisfied with the sentence, which reflected the serious nature of the crime.

Defense attorney Robert Sandy Jr. said, “I’m happy for Mr. Mocarsky’s family and the children, their families and the Jackman community that this has come to a conclusion.”

Before Mocarsky walked out of the courtroom, he hugged his wife over a wooden barrier and told her he loved her. His father, also named Robert, stood beside her. They declined to comment.

Erin Rhoda can be contacted at 612-2368 or at: [email protected]