With his wife undergoing chemotherapy treatments and his 89-year-old mother in declining health, Robert Hamberg wanted to be freed on bail pending his appeal on eight sexual battery convictions.
Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt was less sympathetic Friday to the former Gulf Coast High School band director, sentenced last month to 30 years in prison for carrying on a sexual relationship with a student.
Hardt denied Hamberg’s request to be released on bond, keeping the 53-year-old behind bars as he appeals four issues from his April trial. Hardt didn’t elaborate in court on his ruling.
Hamberg posted $200,000 bond prior to his trial and conviction in April on eight counts of lewd and lascivious sexual battery of a minor under 16, but won’t be freed during the appeals process expected to last several months.
Citing case law allowing for bail in “not frivolous” appeals, Hamberg’s attorney, Jerry Berry, argued his client should receive $50,000 bail during the appeal process.
Hamberg’s wife, Dianne, also was called to testify at the hearing. She said the couple has $6 in the bank and few assets, and that she has two months remaining of chemotherapy treatments remaining since her October diagnosis.
Berry argued the couple wouldn’t flee because Dianne Hamberg wouldn’t want to lose her employee health insurance as she undergoes her final rounds of cancer treatment.
“In her health situation, if she were to leave her job and lose her health benefits, it’s almost a death sentence for her,” Berry said.
Dianne Hamberg has supported her husband since his arrest, saying before his conviction that she was aware of his close relationships with students. The couples exchanged smiles as Dianne Hamberg took the stand and as she left Friday.
Prosecutors argued Robert Hamberg doesn’t have significant incentive to stay in Southwest Florida, making him a potential flight risk.
“His ties to Collier County were as band director to Gulf Coast High,” Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca said. “Now that he’s not band director of Gulf Coast High, he has no ties.”
The victim, who was 17 at the time of the trial, was once again called to testify Friday. With her parents and several relatives in the courtroom, the victim said that prior to his arrest, Robert Hamberg said he would commit suicide before serving a prison sentence resulting from their relationship.
The Daily News is not naming the victim due to the nature of the crime.
“He said that he would have to go to jail (if convicted), but if that ever came, he would take himself out before that ever happened,” the victim said.
The victim also said Robert Hamberg spoke of leaving the country together once she turned 18 years old.
“He said that we would probably have to move,” the victim said, adding “he brought up Mexico” as a possible destination.
In his appeal, Berry is arguing that Hardt erred in:
■ Allowing prosecutors to question Hamberg on his previous stint as a band director at a Georgia high school, where he met Dianne Hamberg when she was a student.
■ Excluding evidence that other students visited Hamberg’s house.
■ Excluding evidence of the victim’s sexual history.
■ Allowing the testimony of Hamberg’s ex-wife, Jacqueline Rush, who was not listed as a witness by the state.
Berry and Dianne Hamberg declined comment Friday on Hardt’s decision.