On the day that a former Olentangy School District teacher was sentenced to 106 years to life in prison for molesting nine of his students, an attorney for families of his victims said a civil suit against the school district is possible.
Matthew Rausenberg, 40, formerly of Columbus, was sentenced Thursday morning by Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David Gormley. He formerly taught at Arrowhead Elementary School in the Olentangy district.
Emanuel Olawale, an attorney representing the victims’ families, said a civil suit against Olentangy Local Schools is a possibility. Rausenberg was given a written warning in 2012 about letting students sit in his lap, but no further action was taken against him by the district. A 2015 investigation led to his arrest in March by Delaware County sheriff’s deputies.
Prosecutors said that Rausenberg would put students on his lap during class and rub his hands on their legs and other areas. Prosecutors said Rausenberg on several occasions held the students in place and would not let them leave. On other occasions, he filmed himself abusing them.
Rausenberg was found guilty of 34 counts of gross sexual imposition, which are third-degree felonies; four counts of kidnapping, first-degree felonies; and three counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, second-degree felonies, by a jury Monday night.
During the trial, prosecutors called all nine of Rausenberg’s victims to testify, along with many of their parents.
Many of the same parents were present Thursday morning to tell Gormley about how Rausenberg’s crimes have impacted their children.
One parent said his daughter is still so young she believes in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, and he wondered what impact this case will have on her life.
“We as parents will always wonder if [our daughter’s] behavioral changes are a result of this case,” he told the judge. The father added that his relationship with his daughter has suffered and she doesn’t talk to him as openly as she used to. “I don’t think she trusts men.”
The man’s daughter — the girl seen in a video made by Rausenberg — sent a video message to the judge, saying she hopes that Rausenberg will “go to jail, pay some money, get some help and stay away from kids.”
The trial’s conclusion had an impact on more than just Rausenberg’s former students, as one mother testified.
“I can sleep, fully knowing he is not in the community,” a victim’s mother told Gormley.
Several of the victims’ parents addressed Rausenberg directly and became emotional.
One father said Rausenberg was “a servant of the devil” and accused him of acting like a “rat on a sinking ship” by continuing to deny responsibility or any wrongdoing.
“Many hope you are harmed in prison,” the man told Rausenberg. “I do not. You need to pay the price for what you did.”
Rausenberg was also given the opportunity to speak on his behalf.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear that my actions hurt people I care about,” Rausenberg told Gormley. “I do take responsibility for my actions. I do see now how they were hurtful to others and for that I’m truly sorry.”
Gormley said it did not appear that Rausenberg showed any remorse for his actions and Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien called his statements in court a “non-apology.”
O’Brien also told Gormley that while Rausenberg did not have a criminal history, he did have a marijuana-grow operation in his Columbus home and had 129 images of child pornography on his computer. O’Brien said that investigation is out of Delaware County’s jurisdiction.
Rausenberg also asked Gormley to appoint an attorney so he can appeal the verdict. Gormley agreed to the request.
After the hearing, victims and victims’ parents were in tears and hugged O’Brien, thanking her for prosecuting the case.
O’Brien said she was pleased with the sentence and believed Gormley “made sure each child got justice.”
Gormley sentenced Rausenberg to serve three years in prison — plus an additional two years for school-zone specifications — on all 34 counts of gross sexual imposition, which are third-degree felonies. However, only nine of the 34 prison terms for sexual imposition were ordered to be served consecutively; the remainder will be served concurrently.
He was also ordered to serve 18 years on three convictions for pandering sexually oriented material involving minors. He was also ordered to serve nine years for kidnapping.
Rausenberg was also sentenced to 30 years to life on two other kidnapping charges, with specifications that the kidnapping were sexually motivated, plus four additional years because of the school-zone specification.
Gormley said that, in total, Rausenberg is facing about 76 years in prison before he can begin to serve his 30-year to life sentence.
He also must register as a Tier 3 sex offender.
Rausenberg spoke to several local media reporters Tuesday but denied The Gazette’s request for an interview Wednesday.
Rausenberg was in the Delaware County Jail Thursday afternoon, awaiting transportation to prison.
The trial began on Jan. 19 and, over the course of four days, O’Brien and Rohrer called 25 witnesses to testify. The defense called two witnesses — Arrowhead staff members, to discuss policies at Arrowhead.
Rausenberg did not testify in his defense.
He resigned his teaching job after his March 2015 arrest.
Earlier in the week, O’Brien speculated that there may be more victims who did not come forward during the investigation.