Christy Anne Brown, 33, a former Cyprus High School English teacher who had sex more than 40 times with a 16-year-old male student, was sentenced to probation Friday and permitted to return to her parents' home in Texas to serve the 36-month probationary term.
Third District Judge Stephen Henriod said presentence psychiatric reports and a psychosexual evaluation convinced him that Brown was "probably punishing herself more than any means I have at my disposal."
The victim and his family also had asked that Brown not serve jail time.
Brown earlier had pleaded guilty to three counts of forcible sex abuse, all second-degree felonies that can carry a potential prison sentence of one-to-15 years each.
Henriod imposed the prison terms and ordered that they run concurrently but suspended time behind bars. He ordered that Brown undergo sex offender treatment, not have any unsupervised contact with children under age 16 for the first year of her probation, and permitted Brown to send a card apologizing for her conduct to the victim and his family.
"What is of primary importance to me is that (the boy) is doing very well," the judge said.
A presentence report prepared by Adult Probation and Parole recommended some jail time.
Prosecutor Paul Parker argued that prison would not be appropriate for Brown, but he did want her to serve some time in the Salt Lake County Jail.
"She needs to know that this is wrong," Parker said.
All reports in the case indicated that Brown is not a predator or a pedophile, and that she does not appear likely to reoffend.
But Parker said he was troubled by some information in the Adult Probation and Parole presentence report. "She has a tendency to look at herself as a victim: '(The boy) kept pressuring me and pressuring me, and my failure was not to say no."'
Parker said Brown was the adult in the relationship, as well as a teacher, and it was up to her to know better and to set the correct boundaries.
In addition, Parker said the relationship was "very unhealthy" for the boy, who still has feelings for Brown, and included such things as unrealistic talk of the two of them getting married.
Defense attorney Walter Bugden pointed to the positive assessments done by mental health officials who said they did not think Brown would engage in such conduct again. Bugden said it was not an excuse, but Brown also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was in "a terrible marriage."
He also submitted many letters attesting to Brown's character and work ethic, and noted the strong family support she had in the courtroom, which included many relatives who had come from her native Texas for the sentencing.
Brown has been living with her parents there while the case was under way and plans to return to live with them during her probation. Brown must apply for probationary status through the Texas criminal justice system, but Bugden said he expects that state will agree to supervise Brown under an interstate compact.
Bugden said Brown has punished herself through her strong remorse and guilt, and she realizes her errors in judgment have cost her her teaching career and also will mean she will be on a sex offender registry.
Brown tearfully addressed the judge, but spoke so softly she was nearly inaudible.
Carol Lear, a lawyer who represents the State Office of Education, told Deseret Morning News reporters working on an investigation of teacher misconduct in 2006 that teachers who misbehave are not the norm. Utah has more than 21,000 teachers. Approximately 100 are investigated for claims of misconduct each year, according to Lear. Of these, between six and 31 lose their licenses to teach.
But Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Hofstra University in Hunting, N.Y., and a national expert on teacher misconduct, said in an interview for the same news story that states and school districts could do much more to protect students.
Among other things, Shakeshaft said parents and districts should have access to a national registry of sexually abusive educators.