Former NMH dorm head admits to having sex with minor; charge stems from 1975

  • STURGES

Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2021 4:59:13 PM

GREENFIELD — A photographer best known for his pictures of nude adolescents was sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to an unnatural and lascivious act with a child under 16 when he was a dorm head at Northfield Mount Hermon School in the mid-1970s.

John “Jock” Sturges, 74, of Seattle, changed his plea to guilty on Monday. His conditions include reporting to a probation officer on a regular schedule, completing sex offender treatment, having no unsupervised contact with children under 16 that are not his two biological children, and having no contact with the case’s named victim.

Sturges and the victim separately attended the hearing virtually while Sturges’ attorney, David Rountree, and Assistant District Attorney Frederic Bartmon, who was prosecuting the case, were in the Greenfield courtroom with Judge Francis Flannery.

According to Bartmon, Sturges met the victim at NMH in 1975, when he was 28 and she was 14. She reportedly went to Sturges regarding an issue with her roommate. The victim was “lonely, homesick and had not made many friends.”

Bartmon said Sturges and the victim bonded over photography and he started bringing her along on shoots in the area. Sturges eventually convinced her to stand topless for a photograph. The two then had sex in his darkroom, and this relationship continued throughout the school year. Sturges also took nude photographs of her in the woods, where they also had sex.

Bartmon said the victim contacted the Northfield Police Department a handful of years ago after receiving a FedEx-delivered note from NMH’s head of school, who apologized for what happened and asked her to contact him.

Flannery asked Sturges if he agreed with Bartmon’s statement of essential facts, and the defendant said he was comfortable with it, but added that “my memory, at 74, is not as good as I would like it to be.”

The victim read an impact statement in which she addressed Sturges and told him how that experience has affected her entire life.

“I believe you ruined sex for me,” she read.

The victim said she became close with Sturges and his wife at the time, and Sturges took advantage of a crush she developed on him. She said the experience led her to fear aging because Sturges told her “it’s all downhill” after girls turn 18. She said she has battled addiction and clinical depression as a result of this trauma. She said she believes Sturges’ sentence is fair.

Rountree, during his remarks, mentioned to Flannery that the victim made “Art for Teachers of Children,” a 1995 feature film, to detail the incident using fictional characters. He said the 1970s were a different time “in many, many ways,” especially having emerged from the sexual liberation of the 1960s, though he acknowledged that does not justify what Sturges did.

Sturges has published several photography books, and his work, often controversial, is in the collections of many museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography in New York, the Denver Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

In February 1998, an Alabama grand jury indicted bookseller Barnes & Noble on child pornography charges for selling Sturges’ 1994 book “Radiant Identities,” as well as British photographer David Hamilton’s 1995 “The Age of Innocence” at Barnes & Noble stores in Alabama.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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