SAN DIEGO - A former assistant principal at the San Diego Center for Children, a school and home for troubled youth, was sentenced Thursday to nearly a decade in prison.
Kettrell Berry, 53, was convicted in July of 13 counts, including unlawful sexual intercourse and committing a lewd act on a child.
Prosecutors said he initiated and then abused a relationship with a 15-year-old student. The victim -- who turned 16 during her relationship with Berry -- testified that she established a bond with the defendant soon after arriving at the school in December 2011. She said Berry would counsel her, meet her after school and listen to her problems. She said Berry began hugging her at the end of meetings and the relationship turned sexual.
“He was in a position of trust and power over these vulnerable children,” said Deputy District Attorney Renee Palermo. “He took advantage of that.”
Palermo said Berry would have sex with the girl in different classrooms and even gave her a card and ring for her birthday.
During the investigation of the case, authorities found that a 12-year- old girl at the school had made allegations of sexual misconduct against Berry 15 years ago.
“It’s so hard to stand up here, but I know I have to do this,” said Lisetta M.
In her case, no charges were ever filed because there wasn’t enough evidence. The victim, now 27, testified against Berry in the trial and was back on Thursday to make an argument for maximum sentence.
“Know that what you’ve done has messed me up majorly,” said the victim. “At times I feel like killing myself, because I couldn’t deal with it.”
The judge called Berry a narcissist who abused his position of trust and power and sentenced him to 9 years and 8 months in prison.
“At the end of the day, I forgive you Kettrell, it takes a lot, but I forgive you. You can forgive yourself,” said Lisetta.
During the trial, another 18-year-old woman testified that she began dating Berry about six months after she left the school. The woman -- who was addicted to drugs -- said Berry preyed upon her, manipulated her and within seven months she was pregnant with his child.
Palermo said the woman was 19 years old by the time she had the baby.
Palermo said Berry abused his position of trust and power.
"He blames everyone, but himself,'' the prosecutor said. "He knew their weaknesses.''
Berry was initially charged in 2012, but charges were dismissed and re-filed two years later after prosecutors received the results of newly tested DNA.