Einstein teacher praised in court: Charged with sexually abusing 4 students

Family and friends yesterday praised the character of a 28-year-old coach and instructional aide charged with sexually abusing four Einstein High School students.

After a half-hour bond hearing in Montgomery County District Court, Andre Kelley was released on a lowered bond to await trial.

“He encouraged the kids to have very high principles,” said retired Justice Department attorney Mark Sheehan of Wheaton, explaining that Mr. Kelley had a profound influence on his nephew, now a college sophomore with a B average.

“These accusations don’t hold water. . . . He put others before himself,” said Imari Marcel, 19, of Aspen Hill, a 1996 Einstein graduate who is convinced he would have gotten in trouble if Mr. Kelley hadn’t persuaded him to go on to college.

Throughout the hearing yesterday, Mr. Kelley could be seen on closed-circuit television, attired in green jail coveralls, hands folded, always somber, sometimes lowering and shaking his head at the praise.

Assistant State’s Attorney Debra Dwyer acknowledged that Mr. Kelley might be a “fine young man” but should continue to be held in jail in lieu of $100,000 cash bond on seven counts of child abuse by custodian (in this case, a school employee) and four counts of third-degree sex offense.

“These young girls trusted him and that makes him a danger,” said Miss Dwyer, who also asked for more restrictions on Mr. Kelley because he had called at least two of the Einstein girls within the previous 24 hours.

But, defense attorney Barry Helfand said it was the girls who had called Mr. Kelley, adding, “I don’t want anybody to talk to him at all.”

Judge Mary Beth McCormick specified that Mr. Kelley was to have no contact with teen-age girls and stay away from Einstein after his release.

(Einstein High School, located in Kensington, is being renovated. Students are attending Northwood High in Silver Spring, a holding school for the county.)

Andre Kelley’s father, William Kelley, a retired Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning employee, put up his Damascus home as collateral for a $75,000 bond.

Judge McCormick scheduled a preliminary hearing for Mr. Kelley on June 13. The maximum penalty if convicted on all charges would be 145 years in prison.

Mr. Helfand said the case is complicated because of strict school rules on relationships between teachers and students. He acknowledged that “there should be a price to pay when you deviate from it.”

“But, 17-, 18-year-old young women sure as heck can say, `No,’ ” Mr. Helfand said, pointing out that one of the girls had suggested Mr. Kelley stop to get condoms on the way to the Germantown apartment he shared with his brother.

“I know all of them,” Mr. Marcel said of the girls. “They threw themselves at him. . . . These aren’t people who hold any honor at school.”

“I’ve known him [Mr. Kelley] the last four years,” said Mr. Marcel, adding that the track and wrestling coach took him to movies when he was inclined to get into trouble, helped him get out of jail the one time he got arrested and took him to the doctor when he needed medical care.

He and Mr. Kelley were planning to go to the Bonebreaking School for professional wrestlers this summer, Mr. Marcel said.

“He loves wrestling,” he said of Mr. Kelley, who won national titles while in high school at Potomac’s Bullis School.

“He’s one of the few men on this planet that I could say I love,” said Mr. Marcel, adding that Mr. Kelley is the godfather of his newborn daughter