Judge invokes Dante’s ‘Inferno’ in sentencing ex-Cleveland school security guard to prison for sexually abusing students

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — A judge on Wednesday invoked the classic poem “Inferno” when he sentenced a former East Tech High School security guard to prison for sexually abusing two students.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Brian J. Corrigan referred to the inner circles of hell laid out by author Dante Alighieri before he imposed Derrick Dugger’s sentence.

“The inner most circle of hell, the one where the worst offenders go, is reserved for people who violate somebody else’s trust. That’s what you did,” Corrigan told Dugger. “You violated the trust of the Cleveland public school district, you violated the trust of these mothers, and more importantly, the trust of their children.”

Corrigan imposed a four-year sentence on Dugger, who pleaded guilty to sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and importuning charges that accused him of sexually abusing two students at the school in 2018.

Dugger will be labeled a Tier III sex offender and will have to register his address for the rest of his life.

The plea agreement made last month saw prosecutors drop rape charges and several specifications that would have labeled Dugger a sexually violent predator and could have put him in prison for decades.

He faced a maximum of 7 1/2 years in prison as part of his plea deal.

Dugger apologized to the girls and their mothers, who sat in the back of the courtroom. He and his attorneys asked Corrigan to spare him a prison sentence and sentence him to probation. He said he was proud of himself for being “man enough” to admit he had made a mistake, and said he would never repeat his misdeeds.

Dugger was placed on unpaid leave from his position as a security guard at Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s East Tech High School after his November arrest.

Prosecutors and police said Dugger targeted the girls because they were going through traumatic and stressful situations at home.

In one case, he convinced a 15-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him, court records say. He groped another student, according to records. The assaults happened away from the school, court records say.

Dugger also tracked the girls on social media and sent several inappropriate messages to the students, records say.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Gregory Paul told Corrigan that every parent ought to expect that their child is safe and not being preyed upon when they send them off to school.

“Mr. Dugger betrays that confidence and he corrodes that trust,” Paul said.

Dugger had no criminal history before his arrest in this case, which Corrigan said he took into consideration. But he said he could not overlook that Dugger was 29 years old at the time he sexually abused two 15-year-old girls.

“That is just wrong, to the maximum,” Corrigan said.

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