« "Is 100 Years a Life Sentence? Opinions Are Divided" | Main | "D.C.’s Race Disparity in Marijuana Charges Is Getting Worse" »

April 30, 2013

Unsurprising (and justifiable?) gender sentencing disparities in NJ teacher-student sex cases

12651187-largeAs detailed in this local story, an award-winning, 31-year-old female teacher in New Jersey avoided any prison time at her sentencing yesterday following a plea to sex charges after an illegal relationship a 15-year-old student.  Here are the basics:

Erica DePalo was in the prime of her teaching career.  Just 31-years-old, with nearly a decade of teaching behind her, letters show the Essex County Teacher of the Year was loved by students and respected by colleagues.  But hidden behind her cheerful facade was a woman suffering from extreme depression and anxiety, DePalo’s lawyer told the court — leading to an illicit sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student....

The former West Orange high school teacher, who admitted to the relationship with her student, was sentenced in state Superior Court today to a three-year suspended sentence, which means she will not serve any prison time if she cooperates with the conditions of her parole.  DePalo also must register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and cannot seek public or government office nor have any contact with the victim.

The non-custodial plea was largely influenced by DePalo’s psychiatric condition at the time of the sexual relationship, attorneys said.  Months before DePalo began the relationship with the boy, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, [defense attorney Anthony] Alfano said.  A doctor incorrectly prescribed anti-depressants which affected her sense of entitlement and judgment....

In court, DePalo took responsibility for the affair, apologizing to the victim in a quivering voice, tears running down her cheeks. "I feel nothing but remorse for my actions and deep, deep sadness for all I’ve lost because of them," she said.

Police charged DePalo in August with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. The first two charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.  If DePalo had gone to trial and been convicted, she could have faced up to ten years in prison.

The non-custodial sentence was previously criticized by West Orange superintendent James O’Neil as too lenient. Both Alfano and Assistant Prosecutor Tony Gutierrez said the victim’s family consented to the plea. Gutierrez said the 15-year-old boy, who was a student in DePalo’s honor’s English class, was the only victim and that the relationship lasted a few weeks.

Alfano said gender was never brought up in plea negotiations, referencing a Star-Ledger analysis of 97 cases which revealed men serve about 40 percent longer jail terms and go to prison more often than women in these cases.

The referenced analysis on the study of NJ teacher-student sex cases appears in this companion article, which provides this accoutning:

Critics have called the punishment for the former Essex County teacher of the year too lenient and reflective of a double standard that disproportionately penalizes men for similar relationships with students.

A Star-Ledger analysis of 97 cases in New Jersey over the past decade reveals significant disparities: Men are on average sent to jail in more cases and receive longer sentences. The data about 72 men and 25 women also shows:

• Male defendants went to prison in 54 percent of cases compared with 44 percent of cases for female defendants;

• Men averaged 2.4 years in prison compared with 1.6 years in prison for women, or 50 percent more time;

• Ninety-three of the 97 cases ended in plea deals;

• €…Forty-seven cases ended in noncustodial sentences, which typically involved pre-trial intervention programs or probation.

There are various reasons for the disparities in these cases, experts say, including the perception that girls and women need to be protected and are more vulnerable than their male counterparts, the availability of evidence, and the willingness of the student to participate in the prosecution.

"There’s a general societal disposition that does continue to treat women as the gentler sex, so typically the threshold for sending women to prison is higher," said Martin Horn, director of the New York State Sentencing Commission and a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

All cases studied involve teachers, substitute teachers, coaches or school personnel who admitted to, or were convicted of, engaging in sexual relationships with students connected to their school.  "Juries and judges sort of make a consideration about how exploitative the crime is and how predatory the perpetrator is," Horn said.  "The system is supposed to make discriminations or make distinctions between individuals based on their perceived levels of culpability."

Most of the 97 cases analyzed were described in reports as consensual in nature (though not in the eyes of the law).  In New Jersey, the age of consent is 16, but a person in a supervisory role, such as a teacher, can be guilty of sexual offenses even if a student is 16 or 17. 

Because New Jersey’s Administrative Office of the Courts does not keep separate records on sex crimes committed by educators, The Star-Ledger used reports filed by the state Board of Examiners detailing teacher license suspensions. The suspension reports that described inappropriate student relationships were cross-checked with court records to obtain necessary information. This is not inclusive of every teacher-student case in the past 10 years.

April 30, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201901bb68451970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Unsurprising (and justifiable?) gender sentencing disparities in NJ teacher-student sex cases:

Comments

The general sentiment here when a teacher was criminally prosecuted for have an orgy with five students is that it was simply ridiculous to prosecute her, in fact, you know, they probably had fun. One person at least was honest enough in saying he would treat male teachers differently. The case there were students who were 18 or so though her duties as a teacher and the power/age differential would have still upset some if it was a male teacher having sex with five females.

Here the person was 15, but many probably would have a similar sentiment. The punishment here very well might be warranted though if a male teacher had sex with a 15 year old, even if "extreme depression and anxiety" was involved, how would people feel about this punishment? The double standard is troubling.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 30, 2013 10:40:53 AM

I admit and apologize for the repetitive nature of the comment. However, this blog is repetitive because the lawyer profession antics are so repetitive, stupid, and annoying.

The scene in the article is from the Inquisition.

The victim is an adult at 15, covered by Lawrence v Texas. Nature has marked 14 as adulthood, defined as the ability to have a child. Nothing happens at 18, that does not happen at 20, 40, 60, maturation from experience. 18 is a lawyer fiction to keep people out of the job market, while being baby sat in high school. It is fraudulent as an age of adulthood.

The male running dogs of the vile feminist lawyer running the three branches of government, want the appearance of virtue, so prosecute female teachers, as well as males. Ask any male here if a cute teacher is providing a benefit or a harm when giving a male student the greatest lesson of his life. How can a crime be beneficial and still be a crime? That is impossible except in the stupid world of the lawyer Inquisitor. All sex is rape to the vile feminist lawyer, and its male running dogs, just as it was sinful during I 1.0.

As a taxpayer, I demand all costs from the personal assets of the vile feminist Inquisitor. That black robed, gavel toting, bench sitting buffoon on the bench should also be made to pay unless he tried to stop the matter. Each of those court features is from the Inquisition or from a church and against the law in our secular nation.

Does this look familiar?

http://kids.britannica.com/elementary/art-89297/A-painting-shows-inquisitors-questioning-a-man

They have ended the career of a top teacher, at a young age, depriving 1000's of future students of her skills. Unforgivable. An extreme feminist wrote a book on student teacher sex, as a great benefit, and was persecuted to an extreme degree.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Gallop

She was so brilliant, and sexually propelled, I have no doubt her professors learned more from her than she did from them. Still, she dared challenge the I 2.0 orthodoxy and paid a heavy price of persecution.

The proper remedy was to remind this teacher of the rules, and to not allow her to be alone with any student, an administrative remedy, instead of this Inquisitorial spectacle of vile feminism.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 30, 2013 1:26:49 PM

"Because New Jersey’s Administrative Office of the Courts does not keep separate records on sex crimes committed by educators,"

But this of course is part of the problem...hear no evil..so speak not evil. When it comes to various types of sex crimes the amount of statistics that simply are not collected is most curious.

Back when I was a wee undergraduate I wanted to study age disparities in marriage and see whether there was any correlation with divorce rates. In other words, were couples of the same age more or less likely to remain married than couples who were not the same age. Only to discover that states did not collect that type of data, so the only way to do it would have been to go county by county and pull every single marriage and divorce record.

One thing I have learned about the law from following Doug's blog is that it is so much easier to make public policy based upon myth and prejudice. We do not want to know the facts because the facts may take us out of our comfort zone.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 30, 2013 2:05:05 PM

Why is a "predatory" female teacher any "less" culpable of a sex offense crime than anyone else?
She actually has sex with a minor and gets no prison term while those who simply viewed CP, intentionally or accidently on the internet, get 5-10 years for a one time offense.
The BiPolar Defense comes up way too often now, seems that that DX will allow you to get away with just about anything. Maybe all those incarcerated need to read the DSM-IV, memorize the criteria for having a BiPolar Dx, and then request a psych evaluation to get a BiPolar Dx that may lear to Freedom.

Posted by: kat | Apr 30, 2013 2:07:56 PM

first, i would like to note that i am glad that this tastefully named defendant's name is spelled with a "c" - but even being an Erica she still should be going to prison.

Last time i checked, while bipolar disorder is known to lower the inhibitions of persons in a manic state and could cause a woman to engage in irresponsible behavior that does not provide any explanation for why she found a 15 year old boy attractive. Quite simply, a normal 31 year old woman even experiencing a manic state isn't going to hop in bed with a 15 year old boy - that this lovely named defendant did could well be a sign that as a teacher 15 year old boys were the most convenient targets for her predatory sexual behavior. But it is more likely a sign of underlying sexual deviance - namely being attracted to children (this Erica isn't an icky perv since the term icky perv should be reserved for those who target prepubscent children) but i still say that there isn't enough bipolar mania in the world to make a normal 31 year old woman want to have sex with a 15 year old child under any circumstances. This Erica may not be an icky perv, but she is a sexual predator and needs to be treated accordingly.

Of course, this leads me to think about what the double standard between male and female teachers who engage in sexually predatory behavior really means:

there is little doubt that had her name been Eric and she was a 31 year old male teacher who had sex with a 15 year old girl she would be going to prison. That is as it should be - any 31 year old teacher who is having sex with 15 year olds should spent some serious time behind bars. Yet as we repeatedly seen, young female teachers almost always escape without going to prison even for severely deviant conduct.

My thoughts about this double standard has led to an inescapable conclusion:

this double standard reflects continued male domination of the criminal justice system. Quite simply, any reasonable adult is going to view a 30 year old adult having sex with a 15 year old child as being disgusting and deviant. Normal adults are not attracted to children (and i hope that everyone would agree that a 15 year old is a child). Hence they will view an adult who has sex with a child as being deviant.

However, the men in the male dominated criminal justice system treat men who have sex with girls as worse than treating women (especially young attractive women) who have sex with boys. There is no rational reason for this distinction - teenagers of either gender are prohibited from having sex for any reason. Biologically with girls maturing faster than boys it is actually likely that the women are engaging in even more predatory behavior since the average 15 year old boy is going to be less mature in body and mind than the average 15 year old girl.

But that fact leads me to the inescapable conclusion - when the male judges and prosecutors look at the male defendant who had sex with a 15 year old girl all they see is a gross pervert who is having deviant sex with a child. They aren't attracted to 15 year old girls and any man who is attracted to 15 year old girls must be a sick pervert so they toss him in prison (which is proper).

By contrast when you have a young female defendant having sex with 15 year old boys the male prosecutors nad judges look at the defendant and say "you know, having sex with 31 year old women is normal adult behavior" - hence, the 15 year old victim really isn't a victim of deviant sex at all (because all he did was have sex with a 31 year old woman whom the male prosecutors and judges consider a normal sexual partner) and the offense is somehow "less bad." Hence, the legal system and society using a male dominated view actually downplays the degree of predatory behavior by the female defendants by lookin at the offense through male eyes. They also seem more likely to grasp upon straws to justify a lesser sentence - hence men are sentenced to long prison sentences and civilly committed as "sexually violent predators" if they engage in sexually predatory conduct (including having sex with teenagers) and have a major mental illness - this beautifully named defendant does the exact same thing and barely even gets a proverbial slap on the wrist.

its sickening and ultimately the sexual double standard based upon a male dominated view objectifies women. Letting a female defendant off without meaningful punishment when a male defendant in the asme circumstance would go to prison is most definitely not feminism Mr. Claus. its mysgonstic and reflects male domination because it is a system that views offenses solely through male eyes. Female eyes look at a 31 year old female teacher having sex with 15 year old boys and think that she must be very sick.

Erika :)

Posted by: Erika | Apr 30, 2013 4:33:16 PM

'this double standard reflects continued male domination of the criminal justice system'

NO, it's not just the criminal justice system, it's the world at large and until that changes all will continue to suffer the consequences of this one sided domination.

Posted by: ernie | Apr 30, 2013 6:41:36 PM

The statistics tell us nothing of help in this debate. Is the prison time for women lower because they plea more often? Are the ages of the victims of men the same ages as the victims of women? Was there the same degree of coercion/voluntariness? Were the affairs of the male and female teachers with a single student or serial relationships? I would regard a teacher as being in more of a position of responsibility than a substitute or a coach, so were the male and female perpetrators evenly divided among these categories?

We can condemn the sentence in the case if we want to, but let's get some real data before we start in about double standards.

Posted by: Paul | Apr 30, 2013 8:06:12 PM

Erica....

You are getting warmer.

So take the next step. Which is that many women benefit from this double standard. The fact that you do not think they should does not make any difference. They do benefit and they like it that way. When it is convenient for such women to be helpless and in need of protection they have no problem nuzzling up to the coddling male. When it is convenient for such women to express their independence by being competent and brave then they have no problem butting the male out of the way. It should come as no surprise to anyone that that these women play the helpless card when faced with prison and the independence card when they want one's job.

Erika, you are correct that it is sexist of men to allow women to play this game. Then again, it is sexist of such women to take advantage of men's sexism as well. If this female criminal had really been a feminist she would have stood before the judge and refused to accept a lesser punishment than a man.

Posted by: Daniel | May 1, 2013 1:38:18 AM


I do not see a problem with probation in this case .

What if she and he had remained silent and not been caught ? ‼

Bi-polar illness is not a fun illness and folks in a manic stage can conduct themselves in an uncommonly less than wise manner .

Hmmm. At my ripe old age of 12-13 years , we had a study hall teacher in her very early 20s , MISS X , who … oh, never mind .

Mz. de Arc was fortunate to apparently not have a male combat instructor .

So much for Ben F.’s theory of the older woman .

OFF TOPIC , but several keystrokes per decade (KPD) could be eliminated were the term vile feminist lawyer abbreviated to VFL ; which can also mean very fine lady ☺

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

Docile Jim Brady
Columbus OH 43209

Available to age 90 year ♀ teachers of sound mind , for intimate discussions on the sexuality of a teen Mr. A. Mozart .

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | May 1, 2013 7:15:07 AM

BTW , Happy Law Day #55 ‼

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | May 1, 2013 7:16:43 AM

Jim: Great idea. VFL it is.

Erika and Dan: Try to relax. Go to the beach. Check out the ultimate expression of reproductive readiness on the adolescent body. Nature wants you to have children in your teens and twenties. Not in your forties like the VFL.

Please, redo your comments which are just ipse dixits. Try a fact from nature, a legal citation.

You are a child welfare worker. You criticize a little teenage slut for having sex with a garbage bag bangbanger. You will get fired for emotional and verbal abuse. If the same girl has a child by an adult who can support the child with a job, he goes to prison. Garbage bag kids are delinquents expelled from home who go from house to house, banging away, and get expelled, carrying their possession in a garbage bag as luggage.

Why? Because the long series of bastards who are born to these fathers generate maassive government make work jobs, and are sacrosanct.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2013 7:52:27 AM

Quite frequently in articles concerning sex offenders we find the word "sick." Does sick, in the context of sex offenders, have a double meaning, as do so many words in the English language? If a person is medically "sick", should we be using the word "ill" instead of "sick?" Since emotion is rather difficult to express in the written word, I recommend we use the word "ill" when describing that a person is clinically sick, we use the word ill instead.
Supremacy Claus, I have to agree with you in general on your points. This is all about money, and not about protecting "innocent" children.

Posted by: Oswaldo | May 1, 2013 11:11:03 AM

It's perhaps difficult here to disentangle differential treatment of male v. female offenders from differential treatment of cases w/ female "victims" v. male "victims." As to the latter, the different classes of victim are not identically situated, because at a minimum female victims are uniquely exposed to risk of pregnancy. (Obviously there are also offenses where the teacher is the same sex as the student, but there's no pregnancy risk there regardless of the combination. Maybe looking at that data if you could get it would be illuminating.)

Posted by: JWB | May 1, 2013 12:20:02 PM

@JWB "because at a minimum female victims are uniquely exposed to risk of pregnancy."

This statement is sexism in disguise. A 15 year old male is quite capable of making a 31 year old female pregnant. A case can be made that the damage to the young wan is worse than the young female. Why? Because with a young female victim, should a pregnancy occur, the decision to carry that life into the world remains with the victim. So the female victim has a choice. With a young male victim, should the adult perpetrator get pregnant, that choice is absent. The male victim has no choice. With a young female victim she is only forced to have sex, not be a mother. With a young male victim not only was he forced to have sex, fatherhood itself can be genuinely forced upon him. If one is genuinely concerned about the psychological/maturational aspect of statutory rape then this counsels towards greater sentences for female perpetrators. They do worse damage.


Posted by: Daniel | May 1, 2013 1:36:18 PM

What EriKa and the law don't know about 15-year-old males is a lot. Can't help but snicker each time those teen-age males are referred to as victims.

Posted by: John K | May 1, 2013 3:43:07 PM

john k, if, as you seem to claim, men never mature beyond the level of a horny 15 year old, it would explain a lot :P

Posted by: Erika | May 1, 2013 5:53:41 PM

JWB, the proper focus on sentencing - and even criminalization - in these cases should be based upon the degree of predatory and deviant conduct by the offender. A 30 year old teacher with a 15 year old student will always involve predatory sexual behavior by the teacher. It will always be exploitation of a position of power by the teacher. Any instance of sex between a 30 year old and a 15 year old child involves a vast degree of exploitation and deviance by the offender. But the teacher cases involve an additional degree of exploitation.

Thus these sexual exploitation of students by teacher cases should always receive harsh sentences - that is regardless of the genders of the involved parties.

Exploitative sexual relationships with adults pose vast dangers for children of either gender - the harsher punishment of male offenders with female victims is likely strongly based upon the old idea that an unchaste woman had zero value for marriage (which of course was the only value that women had at the time). It has no place in modern society.

Erika :)

Posted by: Erika | May 1, 2013 6:07:57 PM

"If one is genuinely concerned about the psychological/maturational aspect of statutory rape then this counsels towards greater sentences for female perpetrators. They do worse damage."

Daniel: Would appreciate any research reference you have to support that assertion.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 1, 2013 7:42:24 PM

Oh great claus.

Thankfully, I do not have any research to back up that claim because fortunately the number of 15 year old males who impregnate 30 year old females is infinitesimal. In truth, I can only think of two cases I have ever read about. Nevertheless, logic dictates the conclusion I stated even if experience is lacking.

Posted by: Daniel | May 2, 2013 3:31:40 AM

I am very skeptical about claims that include the word "always." The diversity of age-of-consent laws from state to state (and I expect diverse practice in terms of which technically-illegal cases actually end up getting prosecuted) shows that there's no strong consensus on exactly what should be criminalized, even though most people would probably think that sex between a 30-year-old and a teenager one day over whatever the relevant age of consent may be in the jurisdiction is likely to be a Very Bad Idea even though not unlawful. So I would not expect a consensus on sentencing. Whether male and female victims (or male and female offenders) are in all relevant respects similarly situated on average is, I think, an empirical question rather than an ideological one, although it's entirely possible that we don't have enough data to say one way or another and that some stereotyping may be used by some decisionmakers as a shortcut. There are no doubt a wide variety of perceived potential harms from underage sex that statutory rape laws are intended to guard against. Some of those harms might be likely to affect boys and girls equally but others less so and people might disagree as to how to weight the relative importance of the different potential harms (and also how much to focus on whether the potential harm did or did not become actual in a particular case).

Posted by: JWB | May 2, 2013 11:35:51 AM

JWB: Please, specify. What is the harm statutory rape laws remedy?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 2, 2013 11:58:05 AM

I can't specify because I assume different people and in particular legislators have different views, and I imagine that few of them would say that "consenting" to sex before we think you're old enough to do so will lead to one and only one characteristic harm sufficiently grave to be deterred/remedied by the blunt instrument of criminal prosecution. But not everyone would have exactly the same list and not everyone would weigh the items on their lists the same way, which is no doubt one reason why laws vary. I believe that some states, for example, have carveouts where it's legal for, say, an 18 year old to have sex with a 16 year old but not for a 30 year old to have sex with the same 16 year old. Other states don't (although maybe prosecutorial discretion will do some of the same work?). Presumably some of the likely risks to the 16 year old are the same in both scenarios, but others are different, and/or people/legislators feel that somehow the older potential defendant is more culpable (and there are different reasons one might feel that way, not all of which necessarily hang together logically) even if the potential for harm to the potential "victim" is the same. Indeed, some of the likely risks to the 16 year old might be equally present for a 19 year old having sex with the same 30 year old but the notion is perhaps not that those risks have all gone away but that the 19 year old ought to be freer to choose to run them. Similarly, states vary quite a lot in whether there are special and more restrictive rules for adults in positions of authority over the minor and if so how broad or narrow they are (do they capture clergy and scoutmasters as well as teachers? What if a teacher at school A has sex with a student who attends school B elsewhere in the same district?) I haven't myself spent the time to develop a theory of what the optimal law would be in the area (both for what is and isn't criminal and what sentencing should be for the criminal part under different fact patterns) in the highly unlikely circumstance that some state legislature called me up and offered to enact whatever I recommended. Indeed, the fact that American legislators think (in I believe most but not all states) that people are old enough to consent to sex before they're old enough to be allowed to vote but still remain too young to buy beer for another several years after that suggests that the legislative mindset is sufficiently puzzling that I fear I'm not going to be able to make coherent sense of all of its outputs.

Posted by: JWB | May 2, 2013 3:57:11 PM

Nature says, adult at 14. Who are we to disagree. I would grant 14 year olds all privileges, duties, responsibilities, voting, drinking, contract rights, but also full consequences such as the death penalty.

Any immaturity is from the infantalizing properties of their upbringing. They are capable of a full adult load.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 2, 2013 6:26:24 PM

"Supremacy Claus is a fictional character. The mother gave birth during a difficult Constitutional Law examination in law school. Supremacy has a younger brother, Establishment, and an older sister, Full Faith. The cousin is famous, Santa." [Blog profile]

Well, that helps explain a bit.

Posted by: Joe | May 2, 2013 9:24:51 PM

Joe: Thanks. The Supremacy is the unofficial ambassador from planet earth to this lawyer Twilight Zone, where everything is upside down. Start with the aim of the criminal law, to protect the public. It allows 20 million FBI index felonies, and prosectues 2 million. Commit a serious crime you have 90% chance of never being inconvenienced by the criminal law. Then, when they have a guy, it is the wrong guy in about 20% of the cases. Maddening incompetence and stupidity of the lawyer. What other service would allow a 90% false negative rate and a 20% false positive rate? A mechanic fails to repair 90% of cars dropped off at his shop. When he does make a repair, in 20% of cars, he does the wrong repair.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 3, 2013 5:30:37 AM

JWB, even if you dislike saying that sexual relations between high school teachers and their students are always exploitative and predatory in nature and therefore should always result in a prison term, it is sufficient to say that those relations are predatory and exploitative enough to justify a blanket ban.

And i really do not want to say that these crimes always should result in a prison sentence because that would require a mandatory minimum sentence and i am not a fan of them - but they should definitely presumptively result in a prison sentence. That is to say that if a defendant in these cases is going to have to come up with an extremely compelling reason to avoid going to prison.

Personally, i think that the 10 year maximum sentence is too low for the charged offense - the act of a teacher sexually exploiting a child who is their student is a serious breech of trust and the degree of sexual exploitation is off the charts. i would probably say that the maximum sentence should be higher - but it should not be so high as to run into the sentencing for forcible sex offenses. i would say that a 20 year maximum sentence is sufficient - that sentence is severe enough to assure that the worst offenders can receive substantial prison time and provides a long enough range to assure that an individualized sentence can be set based upon the facts of the case. i would also say that there should be a presumptive sentence of 10 years in prison for these offenses and that in only the most extremely rare circumsntacex should a teacher ever receive less than an active 5 year prison term for having sex with a student.

Now in this case, i obviously do not have all of the facts of the case - but it seems that this case would be in the middle range of teacher student offenses. the defendant is not the worst possible defendant (one with multiple victims, an extended period of offending, known prior offenses, having sex inside of the school, a very young (13/14 year old) student, etc.) The mental illness and improper treatment could well be seen as a miitgating factor in that with proper treatment her risk of reoffense might be very low. The defendant is also not the best possible defendant - the student was 15 which is young enough that the offense was illegal regardless of the status of the offender, there were multiple offenses, the teacher had directly taught the student, and the offense took place over time (albeit a short time). The mental illness - coupled with the strong likelihood of a deviant attraction towards children - could also justify a longer sentence due to an elevated risk of reoffense if she does not receive proper treatment. That is to say that there are substantial aggravating factors in this case.

The gender issue is i truly believe a wash between male and female defendants - that is because you can make arguments that either type of defendant has factors which makes the offense worse. With male defendants and female victims, the aggravating factor is the risk of teen pregnancy which is a substnatial social problem. It may be argued that the fact that girls are more mature on average than boys at the same age make them more vulernable to predation by older men (who are able to exploit their premature feelings of being adults). Also, the fact that the vast majority of defendants convicted of this crime are male with female victims suggests the need for strong deterrence to protect the community.

However, there are also compelling arguments that female offenders are worse: first, you have the very rarity of the female offender which suggests that either the offense is dramatically underreported or that female offenders who engage in this offense are likely engaged in a higher degree of deviant behavior. SEcond, you have the fact that boys mature at a slower rate than girls which means that on average the offenders might be much more likely to display a specific attraction towards children. Third, you have the likelihood that the very immaturity of male victims makes them much more vulernable to sexual predators.

Overall, i feel that these considerations cancel out - you can make a rational argument that either a male offender or a female offender is worse.

Ultimately in this case, with the offender being in the middle of offenses the sentence in my opinion should be in the middle range - namely between 3 to 7 years in prison. ultimately if i was the judge i would go at the high end of that giving an active sentence of 7 years in prison because i believe that ultimately the defendant is at the upper end of the middle group of severity of crime based upon the age of the child and there being multiple offenses (as well as the child being a current student of hers). In my ideal sentencing world where the maximum sentence for her offense would be 20 years in prison, the middle sentencing range should be in the 6 to 14 year range - again, i would go at the top end for an active 14 year sentence of years in prison.

but given the existing range of nothing to 10 years in prison, i would say that the presumptive sentence in these cases should be 5 years in prison - i believe that even the maxium sentence of 10 years is prison is not sufficient to show the severity of the predatory conduct by the teachers in these cases, but that is what the legislature decided is the appropriate maximum sentence in thse caes. i really think that 10 years in prison is a good baseline sentence for these crimes. And while i would not like to see a mandatory minimum, i really believe that none of these cases should ever result in less than a 5 year sentence abstent an extremely compelling reason. The main reason is because of the abuse of a trust position and the inheriently high degree of exploitative conduct.

Posted by: Erika | May 3, 2013 4:55:52 PM

i should not that in my ideal world there would not be plea deals in these cases - or that perhaps there would need to be a even harsher maximum sentence to get to what i feel is the proper minimum sentenec of 5 years in prison. but i still say in an ideal world this beautifully named defendat would be headed off to serve a 14 year prison sentence (maybe i should add a year for a 15 year prison sentence because it would be very symbolic). but really, if she even got the three year sentence as active time rather than a suspended sentence i would be a lot happier - i think it is not nearly enough, but then i do not think the 10 year possible maximum sentence is enough time for that crime.

and btw, a good idea would be a higher maxium sentence for teachers who prey upon 13-15 year old students and those who prey upon 16+ year old students.

Erika :)

Posted by: Erika | May 3, 2013 5:11:13 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB