Login | July 17, 2019

Teacher-turned-lawyer’s sexual battery sentence overturned by 11th District

Legal News Reporter

Published: July 11, 2019

The 11th District Court of Appeals has vacated the sentence of a former Christian school teacher turned lawyer who was given the maximum punishment for sexually assaulting two former students.

Anthony J. Polizzi Jr. was sentenced to 33 years in prison and declared a Tier 3 sex offender in May 2018. He previously pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual battery and two counts of gross sexual imposition in Lake County Common Pleas Court.

On appeal, Polizzi –who was eligible for community control - argued the sentence was not supported by the record and did not warrant consecutive terms.

Polizzi taught history at a private Willoughby Hills high school from 2007 to 2010. He was also a mock trial adviser, class adviser and cross country coach. Inappropriate relationships with the girls occurred during the 2008 and 2009-10 school years when the victims were 17 and 18.

Court records indicate Polizzi was fired from his teaching position after a third student reported seeing him return to school with one of the victims. However, he managed to complete law school, work for three years as an attorney and avoid legal consequences until 2017 – when he was indicted on a total of 80 counts.

One of the victims said she never planned on contacting authorities until 2012, when he sent her an unwanted “filthy” email two years after their relationship ended. Each victim gave a statement describing trauma and ongoing psychological harm and asked for the maximum sentence.

The trial court found Polizzi to be a “predator” who showed no genuine remorse for the victims, that they would continue to suffer from his actions for the rest of their lives, that he was likely to re-offend and that he was a danger to the public.

However, the appellate panel found the 33-year sentence demeans the seriousness of other more violent crimes.

“The findings of the presentence investigation report and the sex offender evaluation report indicated that appellant had a low to moderate chance of re-offending,” 11th District Judge Timothy P. Cannon wrote in his majority opinion. “Other than a lack of remorse, there is no support in the record for concluding that appellant is likely to re-offend; to the contrary, appellant’s lack of criminal history – both before and for many years after the present crimes – the letters of support as to his character, and his inability to ever teach or have interactions with minors under similar circumstances due to the Tier III sex offender status, all support a finding that the opportunity for re-offense is low.

“There is also little to no support in the record for a finding that appellant is a danger to the public at large.”

Judge Cannon acknowledged that several things in the record support the trial court’s conclusion that Polizzi was not remorseful, such as the crude email to a victim and a comment to a psychologist before sentencing that he wished the former students “misery.”

Yet lack of remorse is the only factor under R.C. 2929.12 indicating Polizzi is likely to commit future crimes, he added.

“In addition, while the harm to the victims is very significant, there is no support in the record for the finding that the harm to the victims is permanent,” the appellate judge wrote. “Also, the finding that appellant is a predator was based on his relationship to the victims as their teacher, which is an element of his sexual battery offenses under R.C. 2907.03(A)(7).

“Finally, the record does not support the conclusion that the conduct was so great or unusual – in relation to the same offenses committed by other offenders – that no single prison term for the offenses in each individual indictment would adequately reflect the seriousness of appellant’s conduct.”

Appellate judges Thomas R. Wright and Cynthia Westcott Rice concurred.

The case is cited State v. Polizzi, 2019-Ohio-2505.