WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Parents fought back against the karate instructor who touched their kids at an after school program. Today those parents came face to face with John Maisenhelder as he pleaded guilty without admitting to the acts.
It's been more than a year since New Hanover County deputies arrested Maisenhelder for seven counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor and one count of sexual molestation. All of those acts took place at Maisenhelder's after school training program known as CAST.
Witnesses say the 62-year-old karate instructor touched several female students between the ages of six and 10. From 2007 to 2009 parents say Maisenhelder would put his hands under their children's clothing, kiss them on the ear and rub his fingers around their lips.
"Since this has happened, they've become bankrupt, she's lost her job, their family's been devastated. I think both sides to this ordeal are very thankful it's resolved," Maisenhelder's attorney Woody White said.
Monday Maisenhelder entered an Alford plea. That means he does not admit to the acts, but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to convince a judge and jury that he is guilty.
"John is still unsure why this has all happened to him, but given the gravity of what the allegations were, he's thankful with the resolution," White said.
A large group of supporters sat behind Maisenhelder in the courtroom, but some people who heard the evidence say he got off too easy.
"The evidence was overwhelming," concerned citizen Mike Davis said. "If taken to trial, there's no way 12 people in a box would have let that man walk."
The judge sentenced Maisenhelder to one year in prison and five years probation. Maisenhelder will also have to register as a sex offender, which means he can't have contact with anyone under the age of 18.
The prosecution says Maisenhelder would have students sit on his lap while he touched them and sometimes force them to touch him. Sheriff's deputies say several of the acts were caught on tape.