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Not guilty plea in teen sex case

PROVO — An American Fork teen testified in court Wednesday that he and his former junior high drama adviser fondled each other on a regular basis for almost a year.

After hearing that testimony, 4th District Judge Guy R. Burningham found cause to bind over for trial Karen E. Draper on 10 counts of forcible sexual abuse, second-degree felonies, and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16-year-old, third-degree felonies.

"It's the adult that has to be responsible in these instances," the judge said.

Draper, 44, pleaded not guilty to the charges, and the judge set a trial date for June 4.

From 1996 to fall of 2000, Draper was a teacher's aide at American Fork Junior High, working after school helping students prepare for drama productions. Alpine School District officials replaced her after she was arrested at the school in October.

At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, the 16-year-old boy testified Draper worked with him in theatrical productions while he was a student at the junior high. He was friends with the Draper family and continued socializing with her during the summer after he left junior high, he said.

During that summer his relationship with Draper changed and became "very intimate," the boy testified. He said the two kissed and then on a camping trip with the Draper family in August 1999, she fondled him three times. He testified that for the next year the two fondled each other almost on a weekly basis in the basement of her American Fork home.

The boy said that during the summer of 2000, after he turned 16, Draper performed a sex act on him three times. He testified the two never had sexual intercourse.

Detective Greg Ludlow testified that police learned of the relationship when the boy's ecclesiastical leader gave them copies of e-mails between Draper and the boy. The detective said the e-mails were basically love letters. Police had said earlier that the ecclesiastical leader received the e-mail copies from a family member.

The detective said that during an interview with Draper, she admitted that the two fondled each other but she denied the allegations of performing a sex act.

Defense attorney Gary Weight argued that the relationship was mutual, and that perhaps the boy seduced Draper.

Prosecutor David Wayment argued, that whether the boy consented to the relationship or whether it was mutual is irrelevant. He said state law says the boy cannot give consent because of the difference in ages between him and Draper and because Draper held a position of trust over the boy.

Weight said there was no position of trust because Draper was no longer the boy's teacher when the sexual relationship began.

Wayment noted that the boy continued assisting Draper with the drama program, participated in some of her productions and she tutored him on some of his school subjects.

Burningham agreed the position of trust continued after the boy finished junior high school.

"She was helping him and she was advising him," the judge said.


E-mail: jimr@desnews.com