Former day-camp instructor sentenced in sex assault, By Ann Schrader, The Denver Post, April 4, 2008

Michael DiPalma pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse after taking a child into his car and spanking his bare bottom. (Jeffco DA)


DiPalma
GOLDEN A former day-camp instructor at a Lakewood recreation center was sentenced today to two years in jail with work release and up to a lifetime of intensively supervised probation for sexual assault on a child.

Michael DiPalma, 33, of Centennial pleaded guilty in January to taking an 8-year-old boy into his car, driving to a nearby location and spanking his bare bottom.

Prosecutor Matt Durkin told Jefferson County District Judge Jane Tidball that DiPalma selected the "smallest, youngest and quietest kid in class."

DiPalma has refused to take responsibility, Durkin said, instead blaming the boy for "mouthy" behavior and making a mess in the restroom.

While DiPalma declined to comment in court, his attorney, Craig Truman, told Tidball he agreed with the sentence.

The jail term "gets his attention," and the "arduous" probation "puts the ball in Michael DiPalma's court," Truman said. "If he wants to get better, he will have that chance, and if he fails, he will be treated very harshly" by the court.

Intensively supervised probation requires DiPalma to register as a sex offender, and a probation officer will subject DiPalma to drug and alcohol testing, make unexpected visits at his work and home, and monitor his whereabouts and contacts with children.

The boy's parents wrote in a letter to DiPalma that he took advantage of their son and that while "the physical harm you inflicted on him was brutal," the psychological damage was greater.

"In the weeks after your assault, (the boy) slept in our bedroom, and he would wake up in the middle of the night crying," the letter said. Despite numerous therapy sessions, the parents said they still don't know whether there will be a long-term psychological impact.

DiPalma singled out the boy while teaching elementary engineering using Legos and elementary robotics using Legos at the Lakewood Link Recreation Center, 1295 S. Reed St., in July 2006.

DiPalma admitted to the spanking and told the boy not to tell or he would go to his house and spank him harder. The boy told his mother when she picked him up, and the incident was reported to Lakewood police.

DiPalma was convicted of felony counts of false imprisonment involving a boy and a girl in Albuquerque in 2000 and served a three-year probation.

He moved to Colorado in 2005 and worked in after-school classes at Steck and Bromwell elementary schools. He was terminated after he spanked at least two 7-year-olds.

Durkin said the company providing the Legos and robotics class did an "incomplete background check" and was unaware of DiPalma's previous conviction.

DiPalma "squandered an opportunity" in New Mexico, Truman said, adding, "Hopefully, he will not squander this one."

Ann Schrader: 303-278-3217 or aschrader@denverpost.com



Return to
Front page