Former principal of South Royalton School released from prison

Dean Stearns, left, the former Principal of South Royalton School, speaks to his attorney Michael Shane after his change of plea in Windsor County Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on Dec. 11, 2018. Stearns pleaded guilty to surreptitiously recording five teenage girls while they were staying at his Sharon home. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Dean Stearns, left, the former Principal of South Royalton School, speaks to his attorney Michael Shane after his change of plea in Windsor County Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., on Dec. 11, 2018. Stearns pleaded guilty to surreptitiously recording five teenage girls while they were staying at his Sharon home. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

By JOHN LIPPMAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-22-2024 8:01 PM

HARTFORD — A former educator convicted for secretly video recording teenage girls at his Sharon home was released on Monday after serving more than four years behind bars.

Dean Stearns, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges of promoting sexual recordings and voyeurism, was released from prison and is now under supervision of the Hartford Probation & Parole office, a spokesperson with the Vermont Department of Corrections confirmed.

Stearns, 62, was the principal of South Royalton School when he was charged in 2017 with secretly video recording teenage girls inside his Sharon home in 2016 and 2017.

Although he pleaded guilty and was convicted in early 2018, Stearns’ sentencing was delayed more than a year — until January 2020 — as the Vermont court system dealt with scheduling conflicts and a heavy caseload.

Stearns was sentenced to five years in prison with an additional five to 10 years suspended. He ended up serving four years and 90 days, according to Department of Corrections records.

The most recent prison records showed that Stearns had been incarcerated at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt. Where Stearns will reside following his release could not be determined on Monday.

Conditions of Stearns’ probation include completing a sex offender treatment program.

In addition, he is prohibited from having contact with the victims, possessing a device with recording capability, visiting places where children congregate such as parks and playgrounds, initiating or maintaining contact with girls under the age of 18, and accessing the internet without permission of his probation officer, according to court documents.

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An attorney who represented him in his criminal case did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday.

During his incarceration, Stearns made multiple appeals of his sentence but all were turned down.

In February 2020, a month after he was sentenced, Stearns filed an appeal in Windsor County Superior Court, but the appeal was dismissed the following August.

In November 2020, he moved for reconsideration of his sentence — in part indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic had changed the nature of his sentence. That motion, too, was denied by the Superior Court on the grounds that it was filed more than 90 days after the date that his sentence was imposed.

Stearns then appealed that decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, which decided in Stearns’ favor, agreeing that the 90-day window for appeal should have started on the date his appeal was denied by the Superior Court, not the date when the sentence was imposed.

The Supreme Court remanded Stearns’ motion back to Superior Court to be decided on its merits. He was again denied by the court in January 2022, at which point Stearns was two years into his five-year sentence.

Stearns’ crimes came to light when one of the teenagers who was a guest in his home discovered a fake cellphone charger with a hidden pinhole camera in a bathroom. The teenager notified an adult, who then contacted police.

The subsequent police investigation uncovered hidden cameras embedded in other devices in a bedroom and the bathroom that Stearns had used to video record a total of five teenage girls — ranging in ages from 14 to 17 — in various states of undress, according to court records.

During Stearns’ sentencing in January 2020, three of the teenagers testified about the trauma, humiliation and betrayal they suffered since learning that they had been the victims of Stearns’ voyeurism.

Stearns expressed remorse for his actions d uri ng his sentencing hearing and his defense attorney said he had already paid deeply for his crimes, relating how Stearns’ own father had suffered a heart attack and died in front of Stearns when he confessed to his father what he had done.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.