Theater group defends hiring sex offender to direct Annie'
Del. Rick Weldon says he remains comfortable acting in play with Huffer as director
Fredericktowne Players is defending its decision to hire Samuel "Samn" Huffer, a registered sex offender, as director of the theater group's summer production of "Annie."
"FtP is fortunate to have Samn Huffer work with us again," reads a statement issued by Scott Beadle, president of the group. "Based on his artistic talent, his accomplishments as a director and his experience with theatre organizations across the state, when the board deliberated on the selection of the director for Annie,' Samn was the clear choice for FtP."
The organization offered no further comment, and e-mails to the six other board members were not returned by The Gazette's Wednesday deadline.
Huffer, 68, pleaded guilty on Oct. 30, 2001, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to one count of buying three videotapes of child pornography via the Internet. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, followed by three years of probation.
On Oct. 29, 2001, he was sentenced in Frederick County Circuit Court to a four-year suspended sentence and placed on probation for three years for possession of marijuana and cocaine, according to a Gazette story on the proceedings.
Huffer worked in Frederick County Public Schools for more than 30 years. As a drama teacher at Walkersville High School for 20 years, he was admired and beloved by many students for his musical productions.
He is not committing a crime by working with children now that he is off probation, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Web site, and he has worked with children on previous productions.
At least one cast member is coming to Huffer's defense.
Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. (U-Dist. 3B) of Brunswick, who will portray Daddy Warbucks in the play that features about 20 children, said he has been to five rehearsals. The play is scheduled to run on July 24-26 and Aug. 1 and 2.
Weldon said he feels comfortable participating in the play because of the environment and guidelines at Fredericktowne Players. He said his participation is not based on a judgment of Huffer's character.
"The practice of Fredericktowne Players, not the policy, is to have adults at every rehearsal, regardless of who the adults are, but there are never circumstances in the practices I've attended where any adult is alone with any child," Weldon said.
He said he would have allowed his own children to be in the play with him if they were still young because he feels the environment is such that a responsible parent can keep children safe at Fredericktowne Players.
If it were not, he said he would not participate with the organization. "I have kids, I've raised three kids, and I haven't known the background of every adult they've interacted with, and so as a responsible parent I involved myself in the activities that my kids were involved in," he said.
Fredericktowne Players' statement did not directly address Huffer's criminal background, and the group's Web site still lists him as director.
"We are hoping to be able to move forward and focus on the mission of providing opportunities for the people of Frederick County and surrounding areas to participate in and enjoy quality theatrical productions," the statement read.
Huffer and Frederick County State's Attorney Charles Smith (R) did not respond to a phone message in time for The Gazette's Wednesday deadline.
E-mail Connor Adams Sheets at email@example.com.