A 52-year-old teacher has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for secretly recording videos of students changing their clothes in his fashion design class at a high school in Florida.
Mark William Aquit must also remain a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.
“There is a lot of suffering in this case by many different people because of the defendant’s actions. Hillsborough County Judge, Laura Ward said in the verdict on Monday, there is not much I can say today to make any of that better.”
Akit occasionally met the gazes of former students attending the hearing in a Tampa courtroom. The Tampa Bay Times reported that he later read an apology in a clear and steady voice. During the two-hour hearing, he bowed his head as friends, neighbors and his wife of nearly 30 years pleaded for forgiveness.
But prosecutors indicated that 324 counts of eavesdropping videotaped Akit pleaded guilty in April to calling nearly 366 years in prison, the newspaper reported.
Defense attorneys requested no more than three years, in addition to the probation period, and promised that Akate would continue to seek a cure for the “voyeur disorder” that was diagnosed.
Akit cried as his victims spoke to the judge.
Longtime Bloomingdale High School teacher Eva Appleby spoke of the shock and disbelief she felt upon learning that she was the only adult in the videos.
Prosecutors said that, after returning to Bloomingdale as a girl’s athletic trainer and fashion design mentor in 2017, he collected, cropped and edited hundreds of nude and partially nude videos and photos of 125 victims during the dressing room change of fashion design class.
Appleby told the court that she felt she was being punched in the stomach when she learned that his cameras were in the classroom they shared. She said the students are now calling the class a “horror room.”
“What Mark did was not a single lapse of judgment, but calculated and deliberate criminal acts,” Appleby said. “Mark groomed and chose his victims – gained their trust and then exploited them.”
A parent whose daughter was 15 years old when her dress change was recorded told a judge that she no longer trusts the school system.
“I can’t trust the teachers or the coaches, I can’t trust anyone anymore,” she said.
Several students said they suffered from depression and anxiety. Another shift from being featured on the girl’s track team to quitting altogether. One of the victims told the judge that she spent her father’s birthday sitting with investigators and identifying pictures of her naked body.
The Times reported that those who came to court to speak on Akit’s behalf described him as a good neighbor, a good coach, a volunteer in his children’s band, a reliable Sunday school teacher, and a loving husband.
“I wish I could go back and change what I did, or do something to compensate, but I know I can’t,” Akit told the court. “I feel particularly ashamed of what you did because you treated me with such care. Some of you confide in me your fears and problems, and many of you consider my class a safe place to escape from the problems you face. I will never forgive myself for turning something that should have been a cherished memory for you into something you’d rather forget.” .
Prosecutors said Akit was arrested when a 17-year-old student noticed a box on a shelf with a light emitting while she was changing clothes. Inside, I found a cell phone that seemed to be recording. I told the principal who called the sheriff’s office.
Appleby said, “He’s an excellent actor, and he’s cheated on us and his family for years.” “He acts like he cares, as if he respects us. Instead, we discovered that it was a big business.”