An elementary school teacher from Independence, Missouri, has pleaded guilty to 16 counts of various sex crimes against children. The man, age 34, was accused of 10 counts of child molestation, five counts of statutory sodomy and one count of attempted child molestation. Statutory sodomy, a first-degree felony, generally carries a relatively hefty prison sentence.

Authorities report that the man admitted to the misdeeds, some of which dated back to 2008. The man was accused of molesting children younger than 12 while he taught at Prairie Branch Elementary School in Grain Valley. The victims said the man touched their genitals through and beneath their clothing. These incidents reportedly occurred during actual class time, with the teacher committing the lewd acts during reading time and movies. Victims said the man would always molest them when other students were in the classroom, but adults were never present.

Parents of the children involved in the case said they noticed their youngsters exhibiting strange behavioral problems, including emotional outbursts and poor school performance.

The man in this case chose to plead guilty, perhaps because prosecutors had amassed a significant amount of evidence against him in the case. It is not clear how many children were involved in the molestation, but the testimony of multiple victims would probably convince a jury of the man's guilt if the case went to trial. Juries are notoriously sympathetic with victims during trials, which can make obtaining a fair verdict incredibly difficult.

By pleading guilty, the man may receive a reduced sentence. It is not clear whether any charges were dropped after the man entered the plea deal, though prosecutors often dismiss certain charges in exchange for a guilty plea. The sensitive nature of this case may prevent the judge and prosecutors from pursuing lenient sentencing guidelines, particularly because multiple victims were involved.

The man's sentencing hearing will occur on April 25, according to media reports.

Source: Fox4KC.com, "Fmr. Grain Valley teacher pleads guilty to child sex crimes in classroom," Sarah Clark, March 13, 2013