ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Former Northwood Elementary Principal Kirk Ashton was sentenced to 63 years in prison after he was found guilty of sexually abusing students. It was also ordered that Ashton may not have any contact with any of the victims for 27 years.
While the sentence is 63 years, the felonies he was convicted of are considered “nonviolent” and therefore carry a maximum penalty of 20 years, according to New York State Law. This means that barring changes to the law, Ashton will be released after 20 years behind bars.
Ahead of his sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Sarah Van Strydonck said no other crimes have victims blaming themselves, or feel shame reporting.
“The community has taken an interest, every parent in Monroe County who has followed this on the news,” Van Strydonck said. “The moment you put your kindergartener on the bus, you let go. You need to trust that they’re going to be safe.”
Judge Alex Renzi said ahead of the sentencing, parents are very fortunate for the prosecutors who, ‘made this case their lives.’
“But the true remarkable job, was done by the children they came into this courtroom,” said Renzi. “They needed someone they could trust. And that was you [Ashton]. That responsibility is only given to a few people […] you abused that responsibility.”
Ashton’s defense attorney Jason Housel spoke briefly before the sentencing, as well. Ashton himself did not speak.
Housel said he would like the court to consider the ‘compliance’ Ashton demonstrated for previous crimes, including 2 DWIs. Housel also said it’s relevant that, several charges reached acquittal; regarding two students.
In April 2021, allegations surfaced against Ashton claiming that he sexually abused over 20 students while he was principal. He was arrested for these accusations and was found guilty in October 2022 on 46 out of 50 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, first-degree sexual abuse, and second-degree sexual conduct against a child.
During the trial, many of Ashton’s victims came forward to testify — one minor said that Ashton invited him to eat lunch where he said Ashton touched him inappropriately under his clothing, and asked him to sit on his lap. The child noted that no girls were invited to these meetings.
Ashton’s defense argued that the victims were given “scripted testimonies by the prosecution and also said that he had no goal of sexual gratification. The prosecution argued that the victims were “only boys” and “always boys.”
After Ashton was found guilty, the Hilton Central School District sent out a statement regarding the verdict:
The Hilton Central School District is grateful for today’s verdict and humbled by the courage and commitment of all who were victimized, including present and former students and their families. We thank the District Attorney’s office, New York State Police, and counselors at Bivona Child Advocacy Center for their sensitive and determined hard work to bring the facts to light in the pursuit of justice. Our Road to Recovery continues. Our entire professional staff remains focused on measures that will strengthen our policies and practices for observing, reporting and investigating concerns, with the common goal of keeping our children safe. We encourage the community’s continued feedback and involvement in our initiatives. To learn more about the Hilton Central School District’s Road to Recovery Sexual Abuse Prevention Action Plan, visit: Hilton.k12.ny.us/RoadtoRecovery.