Virginia School Psychologist Richard Sidebottom Guilty of Sexual Battery of Child

June 21, 2019

A former Albemarle County (Virginia) Public Schools employee has pleaded guilty to two charges of sex crimes against children.

Richard Sidebottom, 74, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery of a child under 13 and one count of indecent liberties with a child in Charlottesville Circuit Court on Wednesday. The agreement calls for a maximum active sentence of two years.

The bespectacled Sidebottom, clad in a suit, sat quietly throughout the hearing, speaking only to answer affirmatively to routine courtroom questions about the plea agreement.

In 2018, Sidebottom was charged with four counts of felony indecent liberties with children and object sexual penetration and aggravated sexual battery of a victim under the age of 13.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania said the remaining charges will be dropped.

After entering the plea agreement, Platania presented what would have been argued at trial.

Platania said the charges stemmed from encounters with two girls: A 4-year-old girl related to Sidebottom in 2009 and an 11-year-old neighbor in 2018.

In 2009, Platania said, the younger girl was visiting the Sidebottoms when the she privately told her mother that Sidebottom had inappropriately touched her. A few days later, the girl revealed more information in a conversation with her mother, who took her to a family doctor.

In later counseling, the girl said Sidebottom would inappropriately touch her and make her touch him.

She vividly remembered, according to Platania, one time that she was watching television and Sidebottom said, “Let’s hop into bed and do this.” When Platania presented that evidence, Sidebottom closed his eyes and shook his head.

The case was referred to the Department of Social Services, which found merit to the claims. Platania said Sidebottom exhausted his appeals with the department by 2012 and it was referred to the Virginia State Police.

Sidebottom, who worked as a psychologist and counselor for the county schools for more than three decades, had his teaching license revoked by the Virginia Board of Education on April 26, 2012, one year after his retirement. Platania said the license was revoked after the Department of Social Services appeals were completed.

Later that year, the case was presented to the city Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which Platania said declined to prosecute “for a variety of reasons.” He declined to elaborate after the hearing.

The case was revived last year when a neighbor called Charlottesville officers to report inappropriate contact with their daughter.

Platania said Sidebottom would wait for the neighbor to get off the bus and say “I love you” and “you’re beautiful.” He said Sidebottom would invite her to his house to talk and would sit in a way that his genitals were purposefully exposed through the leg of his shorts. Sidebottom repeatedly shook his head as Platania detailed the incidents in court on Wednesday.

A city detective decided to pay Sidebottom a visit to discuss the allegations and arrived at the time the neighbor would typically be getting off the bus, Platania said. The detective noted that Sidebottom was sitting on his truck and visibly adjusted his shorts as the detective approached.

Platania said neighbors would have testified that he had been seen nude and masturbating at the windows of his home in clear view of children at other times.

As part of the agreement, Sidebottom’s attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, said he would agree to a permanent protective order for the neighbor and register as a sex offender.

The plea agreement didn’t make the victims’ families happy, Platania said, but would bring some closure and avoid making the children testify.

“It’s a horrific set of allegations,” Platania said. “There’s really no agreement that can undo what’s been done.”

Platania made a motion to revoke Sidebottom’s bond, but Judge Humes Franklin denied it. Franklin said allowing Sidebottom to remain out on bond as he awaits sentencing would allow the judicial process to move quicker.

“It’s not going to stop what’s coming at the end,” Franklin said.

After the hearing, the victims’ families were escorted from the courtroom. Shortly after, Sidebottom grabbed a cane in his right hand and departed the courthouse. His sentencing is scheduled for June 20.

Later on Wednesday, the Charlottesville Police Department extended a call for any information related to Sidebottom in case there are more victims who have yet to come forward. Anyone with information can call police Capt. Jim Mooney at (434) 970-3280.

Source: “Ex-ACPS employee pleads guilty to child sex abuse,” The Daily Progress (Charlottesville, VA), February 27, 2019. URL:


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