Retired teacher sentenced to 3 years in prison

DOVER — A 73-year-old former teacher and coach received three years in prison Friday after pleading guilty to third-degree unlawful sexual intercourse.

Carl D. Fennell agreed to a sentencing offer after negotiating with the Delaware Department of Justice. He was earlier facing 10 felony counts and the potential for spending the rest of his life in prison if convicted on all the charges.

The crime involved an underage girl he taught in school and mentored in tennis nearly 30 years ago.

Mr. Fennell coached and taught at Dover High and Delaware State University before retiring. He was inducted into the Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Prior to sentencing, the now 43-year-old victim spoke before an unusually large Superior Court audience (including friends and family of both defendant and victim sitting on opposite sides of the room) and explained the trauma she’s suffered since incidents after tennis lessons conducted at Delaware Technical Community College.

Carl D. Fennell

She said she was 14 years old at the time and continues to suffer flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, mental and physical ailments related to the stress of living with her secret for nearly three decades.

“He stripped me of my innocence and extinguished the fire for (life) that I once had,” the woman said, often fighting back tears, and noting that she never played tennis again after interactions with Fennell.

The woman reported that Mr. Fennell’s wife supposedly attempted to shame her after the accusations, which was denied through defense attorney John R. Garey.

According to the woman, she decided to come forward to escape the “mental anguish and shame that has entrapped me for so long.” She said the time frame that emerged around the time of the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements was merely a coincidence.

Throughout the years, the woman said she became traumatized during chance meetings with Fennell out in public.

“I want to live my life fully and without fear with whatever time God has left for me,” she said.

The woman said she had twice attempted suicide and that while Fennell experienced the joy of a career and raising a family in the years afterward “while he was living his life I was not living mine.”

Deputy Attorney General Jason Cohee declined comment afterward.

Prior to sentencing, Mr. Garey urged the judge to consider a lesser sentence than what had been agreed to based on the defendant’s otherwise sterling record of accomplishments, lack of criminal record and remorse, which was denied as Fennell’s signature on a plea agreement was noted.

“Mr. Fennell has succeeded in living his life since the incident as an example of what a good citizen should be,” Mr. Garey said.

On Friday, the defendant described himself as “[a] humbled man deeply and rightfully ashamed of my past actions. I know I’ve let a lot of people down.”

Mr. Fennell apologized to the victim and acknowledged that only her closest confidants could understand the true depths of suffering she’s experienced.

“She has carried the burden (of this) for years and the truth is that she shouldn’t have had to do so,” Fennell said.

Last summer, the woman contacted Dover Police to report incidents between July 1989 and May 1990, prompting an investigation and indictment on Aug. 6.

Fennell will serve two years of Level III probation upon release.

He was also ordered to have no contact with the victim or her family, or any child not accompanied by a guardian. register as a three years.

Completion of sex offender counseling and treatment was mandated.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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