Contractor accused of inappropriately touching Montgomery Co. student takes plea deal, avoids jail

A man pleaded guilty Tuesday for groping a 12-year-old girl at school.

John Epps Jr., a contract worker installing security cameras at Baker Middle School, was caught on camera. As part of his sentence, Epps will have to register on Maryland's sex offender registry and was placed on probation but will avoid jail time.

Surveillance video from the middle school shows Epps walk by the girl. He reaches his hand out and touches her inappropriately on the buttocks. The girl turns around in surprise after he grabbed her. A teacher saw it happen and reported it to school security.

"It's creepy. Look he's mid 40's and he is inappropriately touching a 12-year-old. That's something we should be concerned about. And he's being held accountable today," said Montgomery County state's attorney John McCarthy.

The 44-year-old Epps pleaded guilty to one count of second degree assault and one count of fourth degree sexual offense.

According to the charging document, he also had two prior arrests for sexual offenses against women but was not convicted of those. The judge gave him a four year suspended sentence, meaning he will not go to jail, and placed him on five years probation. Epps will also remain on the sex offender registry for 15 years.

For some parents at the school, the sentence fell short. "I think maybe he should have really gotten some jail time for it yeah. So this stuff doesn't happen again," said LeAnne Fink, who has a sixth grader at the school.

The case outraged the community last fall because it took nearly a month to notify parents of the incident at the school. A 16-year-old high school student who was at Baker for another activity later came forward with similar allegations, but under the plea deal Epps was not charged in that case.

The state's attorney says the case is different than others in Montgomery County Public Schools recently involving school employees. Epps was an outside contract worker and would not have undergone a background check by the school system, but by the contractor. That criminal background check, the school system said, was inaccurate.

He had done work in 59 schools prior to his arrest. Now, with his name on the sex offender registry, he won't be allowed in a school again. "I am hoping what we have achieve here today is that he is monitored, he is supervised and he stays out of our schools," said McCarthy.

If Epps violates the terms of his probation, he could be ordered to serve out the rest of his four year sentence in prison.

In response to this case, the state's attorney, police and MCPS are working on new guidelines to do a better job notifying parents when a crime like this happens at school.

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