MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A former Jefferson High School teacher has been sentenced in Berkeley County Circuit Court after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust and soliciting a minor via computer.
31-year-old Joel Ziler received a 2 to 10 year sentence for both counts meaning he will serve time in prison for at least 4 to 20 years.
During a nearly two hour court proceeding, it was revealed that Ziler had gone under a series of psychiatric evaluations. Dr. Paul Cradle gave testimony saying to the court that the defendant was at a medium risk to become a repeat offender and that he was a good candidate for “alternative sentencing” that would have included home confinement.
The court also heard testimony before the sentencing from Ziler’s father along with impact statements from one of the victims and both of her parents.
The victim told the court that her life has been a “living hell” since the summer of 2016 and added that she was “looked down upon in her community” as a result of coming forward with the allegations against the defendant.
The investigation into the allegations against Ziler revealed that it was during that time the incidents with the victims took place.
The victim’s father requested to Judge Laura Faircloth to give his statement directly in front of the defendant; a request that was denied. He appeared to be visibly upset during his testimony and called the defendant ” a piece of crap”.
Ziler’s defense attorney noted that the defendant fully accepted responsibility for his actions and that during the time of the incidents he was feeling depressed after his wife suddenly divorced him.
Before the sentencing, Judge Faircloth said grief from a divorce is not an excuse to solicit under aged girls.
Along with the prison sentence, Ziler was also order to pay over $2,000 in restitution for counseling sessions that one of the victims had to attend.
Story by Elias McMillan