Calling the defendant's actions "pretty nauseating" and "pretty disgusting," a Henrico County judge sentenced a former dance instructor Wednesday to 16 years in prison for having sex with four underage girls and possession of child pornography.
Judge Gary Hicks of Henrico Circuit Court sentenced Andrew Defiesta in a crowded courtroom after the defendant apologized for his actions, lamented the destruction of his marriage and said that while in jail he had lost "what dignity I had left."
Defiesta, 35, entered pleas in August and was convicted of eight counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor and 10 counts of possession of child pornography.
Defiesta, who had worked as an instructor at the Latin Ballet of Virginia and the Regency Dance Academy, had sexual intercourse with four students and tried to have sex with a fifth girl over a 10-year period, according to Henrico prosecutor Linda Scott.
Anna King, director of the Latin Ballet of Virginia, testified that Defiesta had told underage girls that he was an angel sent by God to protect them from the boys at school.
King said he also would take girls shopping to try on dresses, invite them out to the movies, visit their homes and told them they needed private lessons with him to sharpen their technique. He was later fired for his behavior.
"He was a very good teacher, and they adored him," King testified. "So it was easy for him to convince them."
One woman who had worked with Defiesta at the Latin Ballet testified that she had seen him massaging girls' shoulders, getting them to sit on his lap and playing inappropriately in a pool with some of the girls.
Another former colleague of Defiesta testified she had walked in on Defiesta and a girl alone in a dance studio. The woman testified that Defiesta later tried to convince her that the girl he had been with in the studio was his wife.
One of Defiesta's former students also took the stand and said that Defiesta would take her and other girls blindfolded into a basement to perform what he would call "trust exercises," which involved "painful stretches" and inappropriate positions, she said.
Wednesday's testimony also brought out that Defiesta had claimed he became "protective" of teenage girls after a traumatic incident in which he killed a 17-year-old combatant while serving in the Army in Iraq.
Evan Nelson, a clinical psychologist, testified that Defiesta also described himself as a love addict.
Nelson said the defendant had an obsessive need to experience "all the excitement of romantic love" in these illicit relationships.
Another psychologist testified that Defiesta has "at least some modicum of conscience" and therefore is not a sociopath.
Two of the psychologists said they believe Defiesta is willing to undergo treatment and try to change his behavior.
"I recognize my wrongdoings," Defiesta told the court before he was sentenced.
He said he had brought shame on himself and his family, had destroyed his marriage and had failed to fulfill his dreams of being a good father.
"I will never see my children graduate from high school," he said. "I am not the same man I was before." ___