Who is Rick Watkins? Ex-teacher, 57, accused of sex crimes against 16 students granted bail

Former teacher Rick Watkins, who changed his name from Rick Despatie, is facing 54 criminal charges including sexual assault of 16 of his students


                            Who is Rick Watkins? Ex-teacher, 57, accused of sex crimes against 16 students granted bail
Rick Watkins aka Rick Despatie has been granted bail as he faces 54 charges including sexual assault (@Montreal1963/Twitter)
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A former teacher and coach of St Matthew High School in Ottawa, who had more than 45 charges against him, was granted bail on Monday, May 31, with a number of conditions. Rick Watkins, who recently changed his name from Rick Despatie, 57, is charged with 13 counts of sexual assault, 13 counts of sexual interference, six counts of voyeurism, one count of assault and one count of assault with a weapon.

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Reports suggest that Despatie touched and sexually assaulted two girls, and did so when he was in a position of trust. He is facing 54 criminal charges involving 16 alleged victims.

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We had earlier reported a similar incident where a 29-year-old teacher Christina Sosbe was charged for having sex with two teenage boys. Sosbe is facing a jail term of 54 months. Earlier this week, we also reported another incident where a Wisconsin teacher Abby Dibbs was charged for having sex with a 17-year-old boy, who was allegedly in love with her. After Dibbs's hearing, $3,500 bail was posted and she was released from jail. If she is convicted, Dibbs can face up to 12 years in prison and $20,000 for both charges.

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According to the police report, all Watkins' victims are under the age of 14. On March 9, 2021, Watkins was suspended by the Ottawa Catholic School Board when police started their investigation. He was charged with three counts each of sexual assault and sexual interference on April 21, 2021. 

Watkins was a maths teacher at St Matthew High School for 25 years and was known for the school’s successful girls basketball teams. But after the first round of charges came to light, the board wrote a letter to the school community stating that other parents and students have said that they complained about him in the past and nothing had been done. In the letter, Thomas D’Amico, director of education apologized “to any former students who have experienced harm by someone in a position of trust". "No student in our care should be subjected to any type of harm, especially when attending their own school, where so many staff work hard to create a safe and caring environment.”

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Many former students and parents also alleged that there were inappropriate offers of massages, Tylenol and questions about menstrual cycles. "That should be an immense red flag," said former student Nicolaas de Krom. "It's not like he had the door closed when he was talking about this stuff. He would shout it throughout the entire hallway and none of the teachers batted an eye, it was like 'oh fun-loving Mr Despatie' … you should be a little concerned about this."

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Bail conditions on Watkins release include not contacting several people or their families, not being within 500 meters of where those people would be, not being within 500 meters of the school and not attending any public parks or public swimming areas where children under 16 are likely to visit.

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