Ex-Therapist Enters Plea in Teen Sex Case

By Kim Smith
Arizona Daily Star [Tucson AZ]
August 29, 2006

A former therapist accused of having sex with a 16-year-old client has pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and sexual conduct with a minor.

Richard E. Giberti, 44, entered the plea agreement on Monday, said Pima County Superior Court spokesman David Ricker.

The sexual-misconduct charge carries a potential sentence of four months to two years in prison. The charge of sexual conduct with a minor is punishable by anywhere from five years' probation to two years in prison. It also could result in lifetime probation.

On Oct. 12, Judge Charles Sabalos will decide whether to accept the plea agreement, Ricker said. If the judge imposes two prison sentences, they could run concurrently or consecutively, Ricker said.

Pima County Sheriff's Department officials said the victim's mother called deputies in December 2004 after she discovered sexually explicit e-mails between Giberti and her daughter.

The teen told her mother that she was having a sexual relationship with Giberti, who had been her therapist for four months.

At the time, Giberti was a licensed counselor and substance-abuse counselor in Arizona.

If his plea agreement is accepted, Giberti will be forced to forfeit any licenses or certificates he may hold, Ricker said. He also will have to register as a sex offender and pay $5,000 to a crime victims' compensation fund.

Giberti was a therapist at Cottonwood de Tucson from 1997 to 1999, when he founded his own counseling practice called Transformational Learning Center, 2555 N. Stone Ave.

He also founded TLC Charter Schools Inc. in 2000 at the same address and was listed as the charter holder for the school, as well as the chairman and a member of the school's executive board.

At the school, students pledged to live by seven virtues: honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, perseverance and giving.

At the time of his arrest, the school, Transformational Learning Center had 87 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.

Giberti was a businessman and pastor before he became a therapist.

He was a pastor of the Shining Light Assembly, a church in Maine, from 1990 to 1996. He provided therapy, including a weekly adolescent support group, at the church.

In 1992, he founded Burning Bush Clinics International, a nonprofit corporation to establish charitable health clinics in Southeast Asia.

He owned and operated Rainbow Gifts & Sundries, a gift shop, and Midnight Cactus Haulers, a landscaping subcontracting business that relocated cacti, from 1985 to 1988.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or


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