- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) - A former school aide at the Maryland School for the Deaf was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for molesting two young students.

Clarence Taylor, 38, of Gwynn Oak, had been found guilty of two charges of sexual abuse of a minor in November.

Prosecutors said the abuse occurred from 2008 to 2011, while Taylor worked as an afternoon activity aide at the school’s Columbia campus.

“When he started touching me, it made me feel really low about myself,” said one of the girls who delivered her victim impact statement using sign language. “I felt it was my fault, like I couldn’t trust men anymore.”

Prosecutors said Taylor used hugs and elaborate handshakes as opportunities to brush his hands and arms across the girls’ breasts. One girl testified he swiped his hand between her legs. At the time, the girls were in middle school and between the ages of 10 and 13.

Taylor, who was joined by a contingent of friends and family that included former students, denied ever touching the girls inappropriately. Taylor is the father of four.

“I’m a man who provides for my loving family,” said Taylor. “I’m always warm and friendly to anyone.”

Taylor’s wife described him as a wonderful man who served as a role model to students.

“The crime my husband was convicted of is absurd,” said Leah Taylor, through interpreters. “It’s totally malicious. That’s not who he is.”

Taylor and his accusers are deaf. The court used two sign language interpreters during the sentencing hearing.

Taylor stared forward and showed little emotion when the sentence was read.

Outside the courthouse, Taylor’s attorney Brandon Mead said he believes the conviction will be overturned on appeal. He said two of the jurors were allegedly victims of child sex abuse, which never came out during the jury selection process.

“Members of the jury felt it was clouding their judgment and that should have resulted in a mistrial at that point,” said Mead.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on four other counts against Taylor. A retrial on those charges is set for May 12.

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