NAPLES — A judge sentenced former Gulf Coast High School band director Robert Hamberg to 30 years in prison on Thursday, concluding a two-year sexual battery case and beginning new chapters for both offender and victim.
The teenager described how her sexual relationship with Hamberg, 53, cost her friends and made her an outcast, and she asked that Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt impose a strict sentence.
“This has robbed me of a normal teenage life,” she said.
Hamberg, clad in the orange jumpsuit of the Naples Jail Center, closed his eyes and shook his head as she spoke.
Jurors convicted the former band director of eight counts of lewd and lascivious sexual battery of a minor under 16 following a four-day trial in April. Hamberg and the teenager, then a 15-year-old freshman in his band, were sexually involved between February and May 2009.
The Daily News is not naming the victim due to the nature of the crime.
Hardt sentenced Hamberg to 10 years for counts one through four, which alleged oral sex and digital penetration in a school dressing room; 10 years on counts five and six, which alleged acts at Hamberg’s home; and 10 years for count seven, which alleged brief intercourse at his home. Hardt imposed a 15-year sex offender probation on count eight, to follow the 30-year sentence.
Sentencing guidelines in the case called for a minimum penalty of roughly 60 years in prison and a maximum of life.
Hamberg is expected to appeal the convictions. After Thursday’s hearing, he’ll be sent to a state prison reception center to be evaluated before placement in a facility. Hamberg has been held in jail since his April 14 conviction.
A packed courtroom observed Thursday’s proceedings. Family members of both sides sat in the front row of the gallery, a box of tissues placed within reach by bailiffs. Hamberg’s wife, Dianne Hamberg, sat a few bodies away from the accuser, who attended with her parents.
Now 17, the girl cried as her mother read a victim impact statement from the stand. The woman called the ordeal a “nightmare,” and one that had eroded her family’s trust in teachers and authority figures. She said Hamberg had been “put on a pedestal” by the public.
“He has had power over this family, creating sadness, anger and fear for the past two years,” the mother said. “We’re no longer under that power.”
The victim’s father told Hardt that Gulf Coast High “utterly failed to supervise” Hamberg, and he said his daughter’s social life was now a fragment of its former self. The teenager is educated through online schooling accessed by a home computer, he said.
In a statement, the victim told Hardt she realizes her own immaturity during the relationship with Hamberg. She warned young girls to be wary of men who act friendly despite their positions of authority.
“Because they could be luring you into a sexual con game,” she said.
Neither Robert Hamberg nor his wife spoke during the hearing. Instead, Hardt heard from a former band parent, a charity board member who said Hamberg allowed students to play at events for free, and a relative. The latter, George Hawn, is the husband of Hamberg’s first cousin.
Prior to sentencing, Hamberg's attorney, Jerry Berry moved for a new trial in the case, alleging Hardt erred during several points of the trial. He pointed to the judge’s decision to allow cross-examination on Hamberg’s previous tenure at a Georgia high school.
Hamberg resigned from the school, Norcross High, in 1988, after his relationship with a student — now his wife — was revealed. Hardt granted examination on the topic after Hamberg claimed he was “naive” to the idea that a close relationship with a student could be misconstrued.
Dianne Hamberg stuck with her husband through the four-day trial in April. As he was lead out of the courtroom at one point on Thursday, Hamberg mouthed, “I love you” to her.
Family members of Hamberg and the victim avoided reporters after the sentencing. Marzano said she believed the victim’s family was satisfied with the sentence.
“I think what they hope for is a future for their daughter filled with a lot better things than what happened in her teenage years,” she said.