Baylor University President Ken Starr and his wife, Alice, lobbied for a Virginia school administrator who admitted to molesting five children under the age of 14 to be sentenced to community service rather than jail time.
Instead, a judge sentenced the man to 43 years in prison for the abuse.
The Starrs wrote a letter to a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge in September urging leniency for Christopher Kloman, a retired administrator for the Potomac School in McLean, Va.
The Washington Post reported that Kloman pleaded guilty to molesting five girls who attended his school during the 1960s and 1970s, though the abuse was not reported until 2011.
“We do not know of any occasion where he was abusive to women or children,” the Starrs’ letter states. “Thus it is possible that once Mr. Kloman had children of his own in the 1970s and once he was promoted to head of the intermediate division, he made a concerted effort to correct his behavior of the past.”
Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said Ken Starr and regent chairman Richard Willis would not be available to comment for this story.
In an emailed statement, Fogleman said the letter “reflected the Starr family’s personal experience with Mr. Kloman while their three children were students at the Potomac School.”
The two-page letter was written by Alice Starr but is signed with the names of both Alice and Ken Starr. A copy or photograph of the document was posted on the website Gawker. The Tribune-Herald was unable to obtain a copy of the letter.
A court clerk said letters submitted during the sentencing portion of a trial are only available for viewing in person at the courthouse in Fairfax, Va.
The Starrs were among more than 90 people who wrote letters supporting reduced punishment for Kloman after he pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14 and one count of abduction with intent to defile.
The list of supporters includes ABC news anchor Charlie Gibson, according to The Washington Post and Gawker.
“Although we in no way condone Mr. Kloman’s actions, we are aware that his family has suffered the consequences for his past behavior, including his wife being fired from her job, even though she had no knowledge of his misdeeds,” the Starr letter states. “Since Mr. Kloman has apparently conducted himself in an acceptable manner for more than 30 years, with no other violations, and he has cooperated with police and accepted responsibility for his actions, we hope the court will provide leniency in his sentencing.”
Ken Starr, a former U.S. Circuit Court judge who became Baylor’s president in 2010, is known for serving as the independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation that exposed President Bill Clinton’s affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, leading to Clinton’s impeachment.
Baylor’s board of regents in October voted to extend Starr’s contract and grant him additional duties as chancellor for the university, a position that requires him to take on greater responsibilities in spreading Baylor’s brand nationally and globally.
Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred, part of the legal team that represented the victims in Kloman’s case, said in a Tribune-Herald interview that she was shocked Starr would advocate such leniency, given his law background, or would lend support in a child molestation case “for a person nobody’s ever heard of.”
“Ken Starr, who is a respected lawyer and a former judge, certainly knows what consequences of criminal acts are and should be,” Allred said. “It is shocking to me that he would argue that community service, rather than prison time, is an appropriate punishment for a convicted serial child molester.
“I don’t think that the letter appears to appreciate the pain that these victims have suffered for so many years.”
Allred took issue with the Starrs’ argument in the letter that Kloman was “repenting for his past sins” and would continue to do so if he was ordered to serve the community.
“This is not church, this is court. So he can repent if he wishes to for his past sins, but he needs to do that in a prison,” Allred said. “There are many sexual predators who prey on children who indicate that they’ve repented for their past sins once they are caught and prosecuted.”
In a post-verdict statement provided by Allred’s firm, one of the victims wrote that Kloman “stole the trust I should have in myself. . . . Even after 15 years of therapy, I still find it hard to make decisions, especially concerning my self-protection.”
Another victim recalled being terrified after running into Kloman in 2011 when he was a substitute teacher at another school her son was attending.
Allred and Starr previously crossed paths in 2009, when both argued in front of the California Supreme Court on the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, with Allred in favor of abolishing the ban and Starr arguing to keep it.
Local judges say it is not uncommon for members of the public who are not related to a defendant to submit letters advocating for or against a particular sentence or plea agreement.
It also is not unheard of for prominent community or business leaders to submit letters weighing in on a case, usually to support a defendant with whom they have an existing relationship.
“There may have been cases where maybe the person is a prominent businessperson and they have an employee who is accused of something and they’ll send me a letter, which is what most employers do if they think the individual is a good employee,” 54th State District Court Judge Matt Johnson said.
Judge Ralph Strother, of the 19th State District Court, said the largest volume of letters he received from non-relatives was for the sentencing of former Baylor basketball player Carlton Dotson, who pleaded guilty in the 2003 murder of teammate Patrick Dennehy and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
“For any case, whether it’s a burglary or assault or sexual assault or even a murder case, it’s very common for defense attorney to solicit family members or friends to write a letter to the court as part of the pre-sentencing investigation asking the court to consider accepting the plea bargain agreement,” Strother said.
“Sometimes you get letters from the public saying ‘don’t accept it.’ ”
The Starr letter outlines examples of Kloman interacting with the Starr family and taking interest in the children’s academic progress. It states that the family, including the three now-adult Starr children, was shocked to learn of the abuse charges and that none of them had ever witnessed any inappropriate behavior between Kloman and other students.
The document also states that Alice Starr and Kloman served together on the board of an 18th-century history museum in McLean, Va., the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, for more than 30 years.
Kloman’s attorney, Peter Greenspun, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Allred said the victims she represented had not seen the letters in support of Kloman during sentencing but were aware that the defense was attempting to rally support in hopes of receiving a lighter punishment. Their greatest fear at the time was that he would be free to walk the streets again without consequence, Allred said.
“My sense of it was that the judge would not give a great deal of weight to the letters, but there’s always a risk that the judge would because these were well-known personalities,” Allred said.
“It certainly was a cause for concern and anxiety for a number of the victims when they heard this. . . . It was a great relief to them that the judge decided that ultimately justice would best be served by sentencing him to prison.”
To view a copy or photograph of the letter Ken and Alice Starr wrote on behalf of a Virginia school administrator who admitted to molesting five children under the age of 14, go to: http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/835134-kloman-letters.html
The copy was obtained and posted by Gawker Media.