Eureka -- A man who taught for the Loleta Union School District for 36 years was sentenced to three years formal felony probation for one count of harmful matter sent with the intent of seduction of a minor.
Ronald McCullough, 59, was also sentenced by Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson to 500 hours of community service and he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
McCullough and his attorney, Michael Robinson, addressed the court before the sentence was handed down.
"It's not unusual (being a defense attorney) to be in Safeway and have someone approach and say how could you represent this unsavory character," Robinson said. "That's not been the case with Mr. McCullough. Mr. McCullough is a pillar of this community."
Robinson said the night McCullough was on the Internet and exchanged explicit messages with an adult posing as a minor girl was an uncharacteristic mistake.
He said that McCullough was actually grateful for the intervention of pervertedjustice.com, the vigilante website that turned McCullough in to police, because it prevented further crimes.
Robinson was critical of the "overzealous" follow-up from the website and how the website published McCullough's home phone number and address on the site and wrote letters to all of his neighbors and coworkers.
McCullough retired from the school district in January.
"I know I did a terrible thing," McCullough told the court. "I'm so sorry for the embarrassment I've caused my friends and family. Especially my wife."
McCullough, who cooperated with the investigation since it began, said he felt he was treated fairly.
Judge Wilson said parents don't allow their 12- and 13-year-old daughters to walk home anymore because of cases like this.
"Parents really can't feel secure with their children in the homes either," Wilson said. "I think you've made a grievous mistake."
Wilson did say that McCullough's cooperation in the investigation was a "credit" to him.