Michael Wetton, back in England, attempted to launch school for boys

By Jordan Riak
Revised, 11-10-00

We have been aware of Michael Wetton since spring of 1995 when his taste for inflicting "corporal training" on naked children brought him to the attention of several disapproving parents, the authorities, the courts and the media. (See news clippings below.) We thought his conviction for child abuse, and plea agreement to abstain from such child-related activities as teaching and headmastering signaled an end to the dangers he posed for children, at least in formal educational settings. We thought the court's terms were binding. Apparently, Mr. Wetton didn't see it that way. After returning to his native England, he attempted to launch a boarding school for Christian boys in Essex under the same name he used in Arizona at the time of his arrest there, "Connacht Academy Christian School." He promoted the school with a Web site which opened with these words:

Welcome to the web site for Connacht Academy, Christian School for boys. You will find an introduction to the school, our daily pledges and prayers, the purpose and goals of the school, and our on-line school handbook containing information needed when choosing this school for your child.

We appreciate your interest in Connacht Academy. If you are looking for a non-denominational Christian school which stresses academic excellence and firm discipline based on traditional values, Connacht Academy is the place for your child.

Want a Superior Educational Setting?
A Firm Disciplined Atmosphere
European Field Trip
A Family Environment
Traditional Values
Small Class Sizes
Foreign Language
Smart Uniform


The Web site is no more, but the UK Directory of Christian Schools still (as of 11-10-00) lists an email address for Wetton and the dead Web site link.

We hope that education authorities, child protective authorities and law enforcement in Essex will keep an eye on Mr. Wetton if he's still in their midst just in case he attempts to return to his old trade. As for parents who might be considering placing their children in his charge, we urge them to first acquaint themselves with the reasons he spent a year behind bars in the United States. Attorney Gary Peter Klahr, who represented a girl abused by Wetton, told The Arizona Republic, 7-26-95, "He's been preying on children... in two or three states and Britain for 10 or 20 years. My concern is he's a recidivist."


Published on Saturday, March 25, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By Carol Sowers, The Arizona Republic

A private-school headmaster arrested in Phoenix on Thursday for paddling a naked teen-age girl also has been investigated in the abuse of students at his school in California and was convicted of assaulting a young soccer player in England.

Sgt. Kevin Carney of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office said Friday that Michael William Wetton, 41, was investigated twice in 1990 involving child abuse. In one case, he was accused of forcing a 7-year-old girl to strip in front of him while she tried on a school uniform. In the other incident, a mother complained that Wetton hit her son so hard with a rubber-soled slipper that he bruised the boy's buttocks.

Investigators in that case seized a paddle, cane and a rubber- soled slipper from Wetton's Appleby College English Elementary School in Lancaster, Calif.

Wetton was not prosecuted in either case because prosecutors did not have enough evidence for conviction, Carney said.

However, Wetton, a British citizen, pleaded guilty in 1975 to a charge of assault for paddling a boy on a soccer team that he was coaching.

In 1990, Wetton told the Antelope Valley News in Palmdale, Calif., that he was innocent, but pleaded guilty so the boy wouldn't have to testify.

Wetton also faces trial in April on charges that he abused a 9- year-old student at his Phoenix school in August. He was free on bail when he was arrested Thursday and accused of abusing a 15-year-old prospective student. He is being held without bail in a Maricopa County jail. Wetton, headmaster of the Connacht Academy Christian School at 3818 N. 67th Ave., was charged with child abuse, aggravated assault and kidnapping after reportedly forcing the 15-year-old to disrobe and submit to three swats with a paddle in a demonstration of corporal punishment. The paddling left "significant inflammation and welts to the buttocks of the victim," a police report said. The girl's mother, who witnessed the paddling, told police that she did not stop Wetton because she was frightened of him.

"I went totally in shock," the mother told police. "I felt like I was frozen. I was confused. I was scared." Over a 75-minute period, Wetton alternately forced the girl to stand at attention, to kneel and recite the Lord's Prayer with him, police said.

Wetton also told the girl she could no longer have a boyfriend because "you belong to me now," according to a police report.

He said that he would have to approve of all of her friends and that she should thank her mother for her punishment, the report said.

The paddling allegedly took place sometime between 7 and 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 24 during the girl's orientation interview at the school.

When he was arrested, Wetton told police that he did not meet with the mother and daughter that night because he was enroute to California at that time. However, Wetton's wife, Bernadette, told police that they did not leave for California until after 8:30 p.m..

Bernadette Wetton could not be reached for comment Friday. When police arrested Michael Wetton and closed the school, students led them to two wooden paddles akin to over-size table- tennis paddles. The smaller of the two, used for the younger children, was found under a copying machine. The larger one was found on a shelf in a conference room where Wetton paddled the 15-year-old girl, according to the police report.

Several parents of the 30 students at the school have come to Wetton's defense, claiming that although he is not certified by the state, he is a superior teacher who enforces discipline. Parents signed releases allowing Wetton to paddle their children because they said public schools are too lenient. Some parents acknowledged that their children had been bruised, but did not consider the punishment excessive.


The Sacramento Bee - March 26, 1995, (Arizona Republic)

PHOENIX -- The headmaster of a private school has been arrested and accused of forcing a 15-year-old girl to remove her clothing and kneel in prayer while he struck her with a wooden paddle. The girl's mother witnessed the paddling, too frightened to do anything to stop it, Phoenix police said. The three swats left bruises and welts on the girl's buttocks. The teen's 6-year-old sister, waiting in the next room, also heard her sister's cries for help, police said.

The teen was not even a student at the school. Her mother had brought her there to consider enrolling her in September.

Police say Michael William Wetton told the girl during her 75- minute ordeal on Feb. 24 that he wanted her to understand corporal punishment, which is used to discipline students at the school.

Wetton, 41, was arrested Thursday at his Connacht Academy Christian School in northwest Phoenix and booked into Maricopa County jail on suspicion of child abuse, kidnapping and aggravated assault. He is being held without bail.

Police closed the school for the day and called parents of the 30 students to have them take their children home. It was unclear whether the school will reopen. Wetton and his wife are the only teachers at the school.

The Rev. Richard Troy, pastor of the 67th Avenue Baptist Church, which houses the school, said the congregation was to decide today whether to allow the school to continue. He said his church has no connection with the school, but has allowed Wetton to use church classrooms since January.

This is not the first time Wetton has been accused of child abuse. He is facing trial next month for allegedly leaving bruises on the buttocks of a 9-year-old student after a paddling in August. Arizona law allows parents and others in authority to paddle children, as long as they do not use inappropriate force.

After Wetton's arrest, some parents directed anger at the police. The parents said they consider Wetton, an English citizen, a superior teacher who has improved their children's manners and academic performance.

"I am not sure that these aren't trumped-up charges," said Rosemary Rice, a board member of the school and parent of a student.

Cookie O'Kelley, another board member, also is angry over the police action.

"It was ludicrous," she said. "It makes absolutely no sense."

Rice and O'Kelley are defense witnesses for Wetton in his upcoming trial.

O'Kelley, Rice and other parents say they enrolled their children at the academy because they wanted stricter discipline and higher academic standards than public schools provide.Parents must sign a release acknowledging paddling is part of the discipline.

"The Bible says to use the rod," Rice said, adding that the arrest "is an assault on Christian beliefs."

O'Kelley said her 11-year-old son's buttocks were bruised after a paddling, but she believes his punishment was fair. When her son entered the school, she said, he was doing fourth-grade work and now tests at ninth-grade level.

Discussing the case involving the 15-year-old girl, police said her mother took her to the school Feb. 24.

As part of the orientation, Wetton reportedly took the girl into a room alone and told her to take off her clothes. Crying,she removed everything but her bra and panties. Wetton then struck her once with a wooden paddle. Wetton then reportedly forced the girl to disrobe completely, made her kneel as if in prayer and struck her across the buttocks. Then police say, he forced her to grab the edge of a table, spread her legs and submit to another swat. Finally, he made her bow down to him and recite the Lord's Prayer.


Published on Saturday, April 1, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic


The headmaster of a private school has been indicted on charges of kidnapping and child abuse in the Feb. 24 paddling of a 15- year-old girl.

The victim told police that Michael Wetton made her disrobe in his office and kneel before him. While she was undressed, he allegedly struck her three times with a wooden paddle, causing her to scream for help. The girl's mother told police that she witnessed the incident in Wetton's office at the Connacht Academy Christian School, but was too frightened to intervene. They had gone to the school to discuss enrolling the teenager in classes in September.

After Wetton's arrest last week, some parents met to show their support of his disciplinary tactics. However, the church that rented facilities to the school evicted the academy after reports of Wetton's actions were publicized. Wetton is being held without bail. He awaits trial on an unrelated incident involving a 9-year-old student. Arizona laws do not prohibit corporal punishment, but child abuse is a criminal offense. The 15-year-old girl said she had suffered bruises from the paddling. Wetton will be arraigned on the charges on April 10.


Published on Tuesday, April 11, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By J.W. Brown, THE PHOENIX GAZETTE The headmaster of a now-closed private school is fighting to be released from jail while awaiting trial on charges stemming from an alleged paddling of a 15-year-old girl. The arrest of Michael Wetton, 41, of Phoenix led to the closure of the Connacht Academy Christian School. The academy's lease was revoked because of publicity over the criminal investigation.

Wetton apparently is trying to reopen the school despite being held in jail without bond.

His lawyer, Michael Roth, filed a motion to reclaim numerous items taken during a police search of Wetton's home and the school.

Included are student files, discipline documents, minutes from PTA meetings, letters soliciting donations and other items that Roth said are needed "so the school can continue to maintain its operations."

Roth said the items have no evidentiary value to the prosecution.

Wetton's wife, Bernadette, who helped operate the academy, did not respond to a request for information on the school's status.

Roth wants Michael Wetton released on his own recognizance, on a third-party release to his wife or on a reasonable bond.

Wetton was free on his own recognizance on charges brought against him in December for an unrelated child abuse incident.

Wetton was arraigned Monday on charges of child abuse and kidnapping stemming from a Feb. 24 incident in which a 15-year- old girl allegedly was ordered to disrobe and kneel before Wetton. The girl told police Wetton paddled her on her bare buttocks.

Wetton entered a plea of not guilty. His trial is scheduled to begin June 26.

Deputy County Attorney Jean Hoag said in court that Wetton claims to have an alibi.

When questioned by police, Wetton said he was on his way to California at the time of the incident. But his wife told police that he didn't leave until 8:30 p.m.

The teenager said she was paddled sometime between 7 and 8:30 p.m.

Wetton, who came to the Valley two years ago with his wife and three children, faces trial next week for the unrelated incident involving bruises on the buttocks of a 9-year-old Connacht Academy student.

Wetton was free in that case when arrested for the latest incident, resulting in his no-bond status. Wetton is not state-certified. He has a training certificate from the School of Tomorrow in England. He had operated the Appleby College English Elementary School in Palmdale Calif., which he opened in 1988 but was forced to close in 1992 because of financial problems, according to court papers.

Color photo by Mark Henle / THE PHOENIX GAZETTE Headmaster Michael Wetton pleads not guilty to child abuse charges.


By Susan Leonard, The Arizona Republic , March 26, 1995

Looking for a Christian school that would instill discipline in her 15-year-old daughter, the mother expected the headmaster to be strict.

She didn't dream he would paddle the girl in the nude during an orientation session, then tell the daughter that he loved her as he loved his own children.

According to police, that's what happened last month when mother and daughter saw Michael William Wetton at Connacht Academy Christian School in northwest Phoenix.

Wetton, 41, was arrested Thursday and accused of forcing the girl to disrobe while he struck her buttocks with a wooden paddle three times - twice while she was naked - then making her kneel before him in prayer.

''Ann,'' which is not her real name, and her mother still are reeling from their ordeal.

In an interview Friday night, both broke down in tears as they recounted events and denounced Wetton's claims that he never met the girl.

''All I can say is he's lying,'' said Ann, who just turned 16. ''I did meet him. I could tell you the way he looks, the way he smells, the way he talks.

''I never wanted to go to that school, but I would never lie about something like this.''

Ann, who is getting therapy, also is angry with her mother for not stopping Wetton. After the first whack with the paddle, Ann said, she begged her mother to help, but her mother said no, because Ann never had listened when her mother had asked her to behave.

The mother was present for the second and third swats and at one point told Wetton that Ann deserved to be paddled.

The mother is remorseful, but she said fear paralyzed her when she discovered that her daughter had been forced to undress. She also says she was too intimidated to stop Wetton.

The mother, a native of the Philippines, said she had been taught in Catholic schools not to question authority figures.

''I probably could have done something, but I got scared and I panicked,'' she said. ''I didn't expect any of that. I was just in shock.''

Ann said Wetton had his hand on his groin area much of the time.

''I felt he was getting a thrill out of watching me,'' she said. ''He was being a pervert. It was degrading and nasty.

''I don't think I deserved any of it. I felt like he was tearing my soul in half. I had no dignity. He hurt me more than anybody ever has.''

The mother said she and her husband enrolled Ann at the academy after deciding she needed a stricter environment than a public school. Her grades were falling, she had talked back to her parents and once sneaked out of their house without permission, the mother said.

She said she knew that Wetton practiced corporal punishment and thought a school that incorporated such discipline would prompt her daughter to ''straighten up.'' But she assumed it wouldn't be used unless the girl did something terribly wrong.

She said she paid Wetton $350 and planned to pay $10,000 more for a year of boarding at the non-accredited school at 3818 N. 67th Ave., which has 32 students.

On Feb. 24, mother and daughter went to an orientation session with Wetton, who asked the mother to leave Ann alone with him.

Ann said Wetton made her stand at military attention and asked what she knew about the school and whether she had any hobbies. Then he asked whether she was sexually active, to which she replied yes. He asked whether she had a boyfriend, and again Ann said yes.

''He said, 'You no longer have a boyfriend, because you belong to me now,' '' the girl recalled.

She said Wetton also forbade her from speaking to any of her friends and told her he would paddle her if she didn't obey him.

Then he told her to strip.

The girl said she didn't want to strip but was scared.

''I didn't know what to do,'' she said. ''I just figured my mom must have agreed to all of this.''

Ann said she took off her green-silk jogging suit but wouldn't remove her bra and underwear.

''He said, 'Do you refuse to strip?' I looked at him like he was crazy,'' Ann said.

''He said, 'If you don't strip completely, I'm going to hit you.'

''Then he picked up a paddle and hit me.''

Ann said she ran for the door, screamed for her mother and begged her to help her get away.

The mother said she was shocked to find Ann in her bra and panties but told her to calm down.

''I wasn't thinking,'' the mother said. ''I thought he would strike me if I grabbed her. That's why I kept quiet.''

Ann said Wetton told her that if she disobeyed him, he would ''get a table, tie you to it and hit you 12 times.''

She and her mother said that Wetton made the girl completely disrobe and hit her twice more with a paddle the size of a racquetball racket.

Before one of the swats, Wetton demanded that Ann ask her mother whether she deserved to be hit. Her mother said yes.

The mother said she agreed because she feared Wetton and thought that was the answer he wanted to hear.

They said Wetton then made the girl, still nude, kneel with her hands clasped and recite the Lord's Prayer.

After that, he apologized.

''He said, 'I'm sorry I had to do this to you, but I love you like I love my own daughter,' '' Ann said.

Wetton warned her not to tell the police, Ann said, because he could convince the police that the paddlings were justified. He also told her it was normal for youngsters to be paddled.

''He said, 'I do this to my own kids and the kids at school - boy or girl, big or small,' '' Ann said.

The paddlings left ''significant inflammation and welts to the buttocks of the victim,'' according to a report filed by the Phoenix police.

That night, she and her mother took pictures of her bruised buttocks and tried to contact the police, but they say the police weren't interested in taking a report because it wasn't an emergency.

A few days later, they contacted Phoenix attorney Gary Peter Klahr, who advised them to contact police again and wrote a letter to Wetton describing his actions as ''outrageous and shocking.''

Wetton, who is not a state-certified teacher, is being held without bail in a Maricopa County jail on suspicion of child abuse, assault and kidnapping.

When police arrested Wetton, students led them to two wooden paddles similar to oversized ping-pong paddles, the police report says.

Wetton also is facing trial next month for reportedly leaving bruises on the buttocks of a 9-year-old student after a paddling in August.

Wetton has declined to be interviewed, but his attorney, Michael Roth, said Saturday that Wetton met the girl's parents but ''never met the girl.''

Roth said that Wetton's wife and teen-age son picked up Wetton from the school at the same time that Ann and her mother claim the orientation session took place. He also said the academy does not board students.

In addition, he said, Wetton remembers Ann's mother saying she paddled her daughter after making her stand nude, because that's the way such punishment is done in the Philippines.


Published on Saturday, May 20, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By J.W. Brown, THE PHOENIX GAZETTE A former schoolmaster and the church that housed his fundamentalist school are being sued by a Valley woman who alleges that her teenage daughter was paddled after being ordered to disrobe and pray.

Michael Wetton operated Connacht Academy Christian School in rented quarters at the 67th Avenue Baptist Church until he was arrested in March and charged with child abuse and kidnapping.

The church ousted the school after Wetton's arrest. Wetton, his wife, Bernadette, and the church are named as defendants in the lawsuit, filed this week in Maricopa County Superior Court. The mother seeks at least $100,000 for herself and her daughter.

Wetton, 41, has been jailed without bond since March 23. Jury selection begins Tuesday in Superior Court for a previous incident in which he allegedly paddled a 9-year-old male student.

Wetton's lawyer did not return a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes that on Feb. 24 the mother and daughter went to Connacht Academy to discuss enrolling the 16-year-old girl. After excluding the mother from his office, Wetton chased the 16-year-old around his office "for the purpose of sexual gratification or other improper purposes," the lawsuit says.

During the incident, the lawsuit says, Wetton dived over a table to prevent the girl from escaping.

She succeeded in opening the door to the room where her mother and sister were. The mother was allowed into Wetton's office, but the headmaster allegedly paddled the teenager again.

A third paddling occurred after Wetton made the girl bend over a small table and spread her legs while he struck her, according to the lawsuit.

Several times Wetton allegedly made the girl put her clothes on, only to order her to disrobe, while telling her "you belong to me now."

Wetton was convicted in 1975 of paddling a boy on a soccer team he was coaching in England, according to police reports.


Published on Friday, May 26, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By J.W. Brown, THE PHOENIX GAZETTE A Mesa family that headed across the Valley to find a structured school for their boys returned with one son bloodied and bruised from a paddling, jurors were told as a child abuse trial opened Thursday.

Michael Wetton, the headmaster of the now-closed private school, sat stone-faced as the 9-year-old described how he was told to pull down his pants.

With his buttocks exposed, he was struck four or five times with a leather paddle, he said.

The boy said that when he cried, Wetton slapped him across the face, causing his nose to bleed.

The boy and his family had gone to the Connacht Academy Christian School at the 67th Avenue Baptist Church in Phoenix on Aug. 25 to inquire about enrolling the boy. The alleged victim, who has an attention disorder, and his 12-year-old brother had been attending public school. Wetton, 41, was out of jail and awaiting trial for the Aug. 25 incident when he was arrested and charged with kidnapping and abusing a 15-year-old girl at the school on Feb. 24.

He is now in jail without bond.

His lawyer, Michael Roth, told jurors during opening statements that Connacht was a small school of 30 students and three teachers, where girls wear dresses and boys wear ties.

Roth also said the school operated with strict rules about students doing their work. If they didn't, they faced several kinds of punishment.

"Paddling is the ultimate," Roth said.

The boys were not enrolled in Connacht after the August visit.

On the night of Aug. 25, when the alleged victim changed pants and discovered bruises on his buttocks, his mother called police.

Deputy County Attorney M. Jean Hoag said that when police questioned Wetton, he said he tapped the boy on the face because the boy "was hysterical for no reason." Hoag also told jurors that Wetton admitted paddling the boy but denied the boy was naked from the waist down when he was paddled.


Published on Friday, May 26, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By Brent Whiting, The Arizona Republic A 9-year-old Phoenix boy testified Thursday that the embattled headmaster of a private school paddled him last year after forcing him and his brother to drop their slacks and underpants.

The boy told jurors that Michael William Wetton had him bend over a chair. He said Wetton then whacked him four or five times, leaving painful bruises on his buttocks. After the paddling, the boy said, Wetton slapped him in the face so hard that he had a handprint on his cheek and a bloody nose.

The boy testified during the first day of the trial for Wetton, 41, the headmaster at Connacht Academy Christian School, 3818 N. 67th Ave. He is charged with child abuse. Wetton, who is being held without bail in a Maricopa County jail, is awaiting a separate trial on charges stemming from another paddling in which he is accused of swatting a 15-year- old girl after forcing her to disrobe. He is charged with child abuse and kidnapping in connection with the reputed paddling Feb. 24 during the girl's orientation interview.

Jean Hoag, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, told jurors that the earlier incident occurred Aug. 25 when the boy, his mother and an older brother went to the school to talk to Wetton about possible enrollment.

During the interview, the prosecutor said, Wetton took the boy and the other brother, then 11, from his office into a classroom and had them drop their slacks and underpants. Wetton later returned to the classroom with the 9-year-old boy and administered the paddling, Hoag said. The boy's mother found out about the incident later that day and called Phoenix police, she said.

When contacted by officers, Hoag said, Wetton admitted doing the paddling but claimed that the boy's pants were up and said he merely "tapped" the boy's face. Defense lawyer Michael Roth told the jury that Wetton was attempting to deal with a hyperactive boy and that Wetton was legally justified in paddling him.

The trial before Judge Brian Hauser of Maricopa County Superior Court resumes Tuesday.

Color photo

Michael Wetton / The headmaster admitted the paddling, but said he merely "tapped" the boy on the face.


Published on Wednesday, June 7, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: The Arizona Republic

A mistrial was declared Tuesday in the trial of a Phoenix school headmaster accused of child abuse stemming from the paddling of a 9-year-old boy after reportedly forcing the boy and his brother to drop their pants and underpants. Michael William Wetton, 41, won the order after jurors said they were deadlocked on his guilt or innocence. Jurors later said they were at a 4-4 impasse after more than a day of deliberation.

Judge Brian Hauser of Maricopa County Superior Court set July 12 for a retrial of Wetton, who is being held in jail without bail.

Wetton, headmaster at Connacht Academy Christian School, is accused of swatting the boy Aug. 25 when the boy, his mother and an older brother went to talk to him about possible enrollment.

Defense attorney Michael Roth conceded that Wetton paddled the boy, but he claimed the boy's pants were up. Roth argued that Wetton was attempting to deal with a hyperactive boy and was justified in using physical force. Wetton is awaiting trial on separate charge stemming from a Feb. 24 case involving a 15-year-old girl who claims she was swatted after being forced to disrobe. Color photo by Bryan Chan/The Arizona Republic The jury deliberated for more than a day before conceding deadlock in the trail of headmaster Michael Wetton.


Published on Wednesday, June 7, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: From GAZETTE staff and wire reports. A child abuse trial involving the headmaster of a fundamentalist Christian school ended in a mistrial Tuesday when a jury deadlocked with a 4-4 split. Michael Wetton was head of the now-closed Connacht Academy Christian School on 67th Avenue in Glendale when he allegedly struck a 9-year-old boy with a leather paddle up to five times.

The boy testified that Wetton ordered him to pull down his pants before he was spanked on Aug. 25. The child also said that when he cried, Wetton struck him across the face, making his nose bleed.

Judge Brian Hauser of the Maricopa County Superior Court set a new trial for July 12. Wetton, 41, remains in custody without bond.

He is also charged in another incident in which he allegedly abused a 15-year-old girl, ordering her to strip and then paddling her. He awaits trial in that incident.


Published on Saturday, June 10, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: From GAZETTE staff and wire reports. The mother of a 9-year-old boy allegedly paddled and slapped during a visit to a Christian school is suing the former headmaster over emotional distress. Carrie Marie Rothe filed suit Wednesday against Michael Wetton and Connacht Academy Christian School. On Tuesday, Wetton's criminal trial stemming from the Aug. 25 incident ended in a hung jury.

-------------------------------------------- All articles The Arizona Republic and may not be republished without permission.


Published on Wednesday, July 26, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic

Byline: By Brent Whiting, The Arizona Republic In a surprise move, a Phoenix school headmaster Tuesday struck a plea bargain with prosecutors in the paddling of a young boy and a teen-age girl, both of whom he forced to strip and then swatted. Michael William Wetton pleaded guilty to child abuse in the paddling of the 9-year-old boy. He pleaded no contest to the same charge in the paddling of the girl. Wetton entered the pleas after a crucial ruling Monday in which a judge said he would allow testimony about a third alleged incident, involving an 11-year-old boy in Palmdale, Calif.

Defense lawyer Michael Roth said Tuesday that the ruling persuaded Wetton to enter the pleas. With evidence from the California boy, the prospect of an acquittal for Wetton "was becoming slight," he added.

Roth said Wetton had accepted an offer made by Jean Hoag, a deputy Maricopa County attorney. The offer allowed for the possibility of probation, he said.

Wetton, 41, reached the plea bargain a few hours before the start of jury selection for a retrial on charges involving the 9-year-old boy. An earlier trial ended June 6, when jurors were unable to reach a verdict. Judge Brian Hauser of Maricopa County Superior Court will sentence Wetton on Aug. 28. Probation is the minimum sentence he could receive and 7 1/2 years in prison is the maximum.

Under the bargain, Wetton is "not to have contact with children in any capacity as a teacher or headmaster." Wetton, a British subject, also may face deportation. He is accused of swatting the boy Aug. 25, 1994, when the boy, his mother and his brother went to talk to him about possible enrollment at Connacht Academy Christian School, where Wetton was headmaster.

At Wetton's earlier trial, the boy testified that he was swatted repeatedly and slapped in the face after being forced to drop his pants and underpants.

Wetton's lawyer conceded that his client did paddle the boy, but he said that the boy's pants were up when it happened. Roth also said that Wetton was trying to deal with a hyperactive child and was justified in using force. Wetton also was awaiting trial on charges stemming from an incident involving another prospective student, a 15-year-old girl. The girl said she was forced to disrobe and to kneel in prayer, and then she was swatted. Hauser, the trial judge, ruled Monday that the prosecution could offer testimony that Wetton, as headmaster at Appleby College in Palmdale, allegedly used a "special shoe" in October 1990 and bruised an 11-year-old boy.

Color photo

Michael Wetton / Agreed to a plea bargain a few hours before jury selection in his child-abuse trial was to start.

-------------------------------------------- All articles The Arizona Republic and may not be republished without permission.


Published on Wednesday, July 26, 1995 1995 The Arizona Republic


A former school headmaster's past caught up with him Tuesday, forcing him to admit in court that he paddled and abused two Valley children.

Michael Wetton's admission -- part of a plea agreement that could put him in prison for 7 1/2 years -- came after a judge's decision to allow a California boy to testify about an alleged paddling and bruising he suffered nearly five years ago.

The "different complexion of the case" created by the California boy's testimony persuaded Wetton to accept a plea deal, said his lawyer, Michael Roth.

The plea agreement accepted Tuesday by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge forbids Wetton from having contact with children in any capacity as a teacher or headmaster.

Wetton entered his pleas after jury selection had begun in a retrial of a case involving the paddling of a 9-year-old boy last summer.

The first trial ended this spring without a verdict after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision.

The plea agreement provides for Judge Brian Hauser to place Wetton on probation. He also could be sent to prison for up to 7 1/2 years.

"Good! He deserves it," a juror from the first trial said when told of the resolution of the case. She requested anonymity.

Wetton, 41, pleaded guilty to abusing the then-9-year-old on Aug. 25 by paddling and bruising the boy's buttocks after the child's mother brought him and an older brother to Connacht Academy Christian School to discuss enrolling the boys.

The school, which had an enrollment of 32 students, operated in a church building at 3818 N. 67th Ave., Glendale. It was not affiliated with the church, which evicted the school after two paddling incidents.

Wetton also pleaded no contest to abusing a then-15-year-old girl on Feb. 24 by forcing her to disrobe and paddling her. A charge of kidnapping is being dropped as part of the plea deal.

The victims and their mothers filed separate lawsuits against Wetton and the school over the paddling incidents. They could not be reached to comment.

Gary Peter Klahr, who represents the girl and her mother, called the plea "incredibly lenient. It should be rejected by the judge."

Klahr believes Wetton should go to prison, noting "he's been preying on children . . . in two or three states and Britain for 10 or 20 years. My concern is he's a recidivist."

Wetton, a British citizen, operated Appleby College in Palmdale, Calif. On Oct. 10, 1990, allegations that he struck an 11-year- old boy with a shoe, causing bruising, were investigated by police. The boy was going to testify about Wetton's past. A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy also was to testify about the investigation.

Roth said Wetton was concerned that if he went to trial on the two pending cases and the witnesses from California testified, he would be sent to prison for 10 years, and his wife and three children would return to England.

"He'd be left alone in the desert," Roth said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 28.

--------------------------------------------All articles The Arizona Republic and may not be republished without permission.

Copyright, The Arizona Republic


Published on Monday, December 9, 1996 1996 The Arizona Republic

Byline: Staff report

On Dec. 8, 1995: Michael Wetton, a private-school headmaster, was sentenced to a year in jail and four years' probation for paddling two prospective students. Wetton, 41, pleaded guilty to a charge of abuse for paddling a 9-year-old boy on the buttocks Aug. 25, 1994. The boy, an older brother and their mother went to the now-defunct Connacht Academy Christian School to discuss enrollment.

The British-born Wetton also pleaded no contest to abusing a 15-year-old girl Feb. 24, 1995, by forcing her to disrobe and paddling her.

Wetton accepted a plea deal just before testimony was to begin in his retrial in the case of the 9-year-old. Jurors hadn't been able to reach a verdict in the first trial. At the time, Wetton said he wanted to fight the charges in court, but that a plea offered the quickest resolution. He said he though it would lead to probation, not jail. Now: Wetton has served out his year at Madison Street Jail, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said, apparently without incident. But the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service needs to have words with him before he is released. He has said he plans to move back to England once he's on probation.

His probation includes mandatory sex-offender counseling, even though a court-ordered mental-health examination found Wetton doesn't have any unusual sexual preferences. He declined an interview request.

-------------------------------------------- All articles The Arizona Republic and may not be republished without permission. Copyright, The Arizona Republic

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