JUDGE orders release of former Preston teacher accused of rape and sodomy


Thursday, September 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) _ An Okmulgee County judge has ordered the release of a former Preston middle-school teacher after he served four months in prison for raping and sodomizing a female student.

When District Judge John Maley sentenced Ronald Kiley Cunningham, 29, in April, he suspended five years of his 10-year sentence.

Over the objection of prosecutors, the judge suspended the rest of the sentence on Aug. 14 and ordered Cunningham released, Assistant District Attorney Rob Barris said Wednesday.

Cunningham pleaded no contest in February to one count of oral sodomy, one count of rape by instrumentation, nine counts of lewd and indecent proposals to a child and one count of possession of obscene material in connection with the student.

He allegedly started a sexual relationship with the girl when she was 13 in April 1999, and it continued to May 2000, prosecutors said.

Cunningham is under supervised probation from the Department of Corrections and is required to get sex offender counseling and therapy, Barris said.

The girl's mother said the release ``kind of threw us for a loop.''

``We had no idea he was getting out that soon. We were told he would spend 85 percent of the five years, that he would probably be in for four years.''

Maley said when Cunningham was sentenced in April, the victim's relatives told lawyers on both sides they didn't want him incarcerated.

``Part of a judge's responsibility is to keep society comfortable in some of the things we do and let them know that some of these things will be subject to punishment,'' Maley said. ``That's the message you need to send.''

But, he continued: ``He is not going to go into teaching. He's not going to be around kids.''

Barris said Cunningham hadn't started any kind of sex offender program in prison. After being evaluated by the Corrections Department in Lexington, Cunningham had been housed at the Lilly Correctional Center in Boley since May 17, he said.

``Our suggestion was that the court allow him to at least start that (sex offender) program before they modified the sentence,'' Barris said. ``Our position was 10 years was a fair sentence, and he (Maley) gave him five and five.''

The victim's mother said that although she did want Cunningham incarcerated, she told prosecutors that ``I wouldn't mind if they went easy on him. I know his parents, and I know how this has affected them. He's their only child.

``I sort of put myself in their shoes, and I know how they feel.''