Teacher / student relationships in the State of Alabama just got a lot more complicated after a judge overturned as unconstitutional a state law banning sex between school employees and students under 19.
In cases involving 44-year-old former high school teacher Carrie Witt, accused of sex with two students who were 17 and 18 at the time, and 27-year-old teachers aide David Solomon, accused of sex with a 17-year-old student, Morgan County Circuit Court Judge Glenn Thompson ruled that the statute under which they were accused violated the equal protection rights of citizens, according to AL.com.
The Alabama law, instituted in 2010 in response to the high rate of teacher sex crimes in the State, requires persons convicted of the offense to register as a sex offender and spend up to 20 years behind bars.
The key for Judge Thompson, however, was the fact that the law specifies that legal consent doesn’t matter, even if the person was of legal age – which is 16 in Alabama.
“It is this court’s finding that the law grants these students the capacity to consent until and unless there is some showing that authority was used to obtain illegitimate or coerced consent,” wrote Judge Thompson in the decision. “If no such position of authority is alleged, the defendant must be permitted to show consent as a defense.”
Prosecutors must prove a teacher use his or her “position of authority” to “coerce, groom, or otherwise obtain the illegitimate consent of the alleged victims.”
“This court acknowledges that a disparity of power may inherently exist in a teacher/student relationship, but it clearly does not exist in every school employee and every student regardless of where that student is enrolled,” wrote the judge.
In Witt’s case, she wasn’t directly over the students with whom she was accused of having sex with. That didn’t mean the judge approved of her actions.
“In finding so, this court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing or to excuse the defendants,” wrote Thompson. “Moreover, the court does not encourage any similarly situated party to engage with impunity in what may very well be criminal behavior.”
Prosecutors plan to appeal the decision.
Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
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