WAILUKU - Although Jim Balicanta was known as a talented teacher and musician, there was another side of him that most people didn't see, a deputy prosecutor said.
The former Iao Intermediate School substitute band teacher was sentenced Friday to a 20-year prison term for sexually assaulting a former student over a three-year period.
"Only the defendant knows the side of him that is dark, the side he doesn't want his family and friends to see," said First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera. "He has led a life of hypocrisy where he can be a great person to others and be this demon or person that's capable of unconscionable acts on a child."
Jim Balicanta, shown during his plea hearing in September, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Balicanta, 40, had pleaded no contest to eight counts each of first- and third-degree sexual assault of the girl, who was in the 8th grade when the sexual assaults began.
Rivera said Balicanta subjected the 13-year-old girl "to acts that adults don't even subject adults to" while saying he was the girl's boyfriend.
As a 40-year-old Army veteran and college graduate who had been married and divorced, Balicanta couldn't have been in a relationship with the girl, Rivera said.
"This should never ever have happened," Rivera said. "It's not a lapse in judgment. It's not a mistake. This is a conscious, intentional, deliberate, knowing act."
As part of a plea agreement dismissing 36 other counts of sexual assault, Balicanta agreed to the 20-year prison sentence, said Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath.
"This is a case where numerous people have been seriously damaged by Mr. Balicanta's lapse of judgment," McGrath said.
He attributed what happened to a "combination of loneliness and alcoholism."
Balicanta is from a well-respected family, McGrath said, and several students and parents wrote letters to the court for him.
"Everyone's a loser here - the girl, the community and him," McGrath said. "When he gets out, he'll no longer be able to practice his profession."
Balicanta said that he had hoped to apologize to the girl and her parents, but they weren't in court for the sentencing Friday.
"I'm so remorseful and so saddened by the fact that a person I cared for was hurt by me," he said. "Because of that, I almost don't care what happens to me.
"I have been programmed in my life to be disappointed by failure. I know I've disappointed people greatly. It's something I'm going to have to carry with me for the rest of my life."
His 76-year-old mother, Loretta Balicanta, a retired teacher, said her son has a "special gift of teaching, and he reached so many students."
"He would come home and say, 'My students can do better. I am not going to lower my standards,' '' she said.
Rivera didn't dispute the comments about Jim Balicanta's talents as a teacher and musician. "But what is concerning and what is troubling is the notion that he was given a gift and he's a great person, therefore he can't be a predator," Rivera said.
"There's no question the defendant is a sexual predator," Rivera said. "He abused his position of trust. He abused and misused the gift he has of music. He wasn't satisfied with being a good teacher and musician. He had to use that for his own gratification."
Rivera said the girl continues to suffer psychologically and physically.
Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo, who followed the plea agreement in sentencing Balicanta, said she hoped that the girl would one day have a normal life.
"You took away her innocence. You took away her youth," Loo told Balicanta.
The judge said Balicanta had been paid to give music lessons to the girl and committed the sexual assaults in the school band room and in his office, as well as at his residence, her residence and a relative's residence.
Loo said she was "extremely bothered" by Balicanta's contention that he and the girl were in love and that she consented.
"As talented as you may be in music, the only song you will be singing is a song to the tune of 20 years," the judge told Balicanta.
He was ordered to pay $400 in restitution.
Balicanta has been held at the Maui Community Correctional Center in lieu of $750,000 bail since his arrest in April. According to the state Department of Education, Balicanta hasn't worked as a substitute teacher since the sexual assault allegations surfaced in January.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.