A former Arizona teacher sentenced to 20 years in prison for having sex with a student claimed in court that she was a “good and genuine person who made a mistake.”
Brittany Zamora, the 28-year-old former Goodyear teacher who drew international attention when she pleaded guilty to molesting a 13-year-old student, faces a lifetime of probation and will have to register as a sex offender when she completes her 20-year sentence with no parole which was handed down Friday in Maricopa County, the Arizona Republic reported.
(Video: NBC 12 News)
“I am a good and genuine person who made a mistake and regret it deeply,” Zamora told the court. “I lived my life respecting and trying to obey every law. I’m not a threat to society by any means.”
Telling Judge Sherry Stephens that her actions were “out of character,” Zamora, who is married, said she would like to attend counseling and apologized to the victims, their families and her own family on Friday.
Yet beyond the courtroom doors, Zamora’s attorney read a statement from her client at a news conference following the hearing, appearing to place blame on the student while portraying the former sixth-grade teacher at Las Brisas Academy as the victim, Arizona Republic reported.
“This was not between a young child and Brittany — this was a teenager,” attorney Belen Olmeda Guerra said, calling out the “significant misinformation” that was given to the public, portraying Zamora as a “predator” and a “monster.”
(Video: YouTube/12 News)
Zamora was arrested more than a year ago and according to police reports, had had sex with the teenage boy on multiple occasions in her car and in the classroom once with an 11-year-old student keeping a lookout. Zamora and the boy also reportedly touched each other sexually in a classroom while other students were watching a video.
The young boy’s parents alerted authorities after they found out what was happening through an app on their son’s phone. She was also accused of sending nude photos of herself to the student.
“Ms. Zamora lures these boys, earns their trust and then takes advantage of them purely to fill her own sexual desires,” the mother of the boy who was asked to stand watch during one of the encounters said in court. “She used her position of power to molest a child.”
“She’s a pedophile and no different than if a man were sitting in her place right now,” she added.
The victims were not in court Friday but an attorney read a statement from the mother of the molested boy.
“Before, he was an innocent child, and now she stole his innocence from him,” the victim impact statement read. “I hate Brittany Zamora for what she did to my son and family. We should not suffer for someone else’s sick pleasure, but we all are.”
The boy’s father wrote a statement that his attorney read in the courtroom to Zamora.
“Now you’ll spend the rest of your youth and most of your adulthood in jail,” the statement read. “My son will grow up, have a good life, get married and have children of his own. I will not allow you to interfere in my son’s life further. Good triumphs over evil.”
“If a (parent) hadn’t discovered what was happening, there’s little doubt there would have been more victims in the defendant’s considerable wake,” Maricopa County Prosecutor Lacey Fisher said.
Though previously charged with 15 felony counts, Zamora pleaded guilty last month as part of a plea deal to sexual conduct with a minor, attempted molestation of a minor and public sexual indecency.
“I find the circumstances of the offenses to be especially aggravating,” Judge Stephens said Friday, giving Zamora the lightest sentence.
But once outside the courtroom, Zamora’s attorney went on the offensive and the former teacher’s statement also seemed to veer from her tone before the judge.
“I can truly say that I have been unfairly treated by the state of Arizona,” Zamora said in a statement, according to Arizona Republic. “It is shocking to me how others are so quick to judge after hearing accusations and only one side of the story. I feel like I was used as a publicity act to gain attention that was often driven by money and motivation from several parties.”
The statement reportedly shocked family members of the victims.
“To go into court and argue a client is remorseful during a sentencing hearing and to hold a press conference hours later blaming it on the victim indicates she’s not truly remorseful,” attorney Russ Richelsoph said.
“Her statement today just punctuates the fact that she has an attitude toward children that is dangerous and makes her a danger to society,” he added.
Zamora’s mother had defended her daughter in court.
“Please understand this is not a monster. This is a beautiful person with the kindest heart ever,” her mother Darlene Irwin told the court.
But the mother of the student victim asked the judge for the harshest sentence for Zamora.
“She should never have children,” she said in a statement. “She should never be close to children, even in her own family. … As written, Brittany Zamora will not even be 50 when she leaves prison. I hold out few hopes that she will have truly reformed by then. I think she suffers from a mental sickness that will never go away. Society should be protected from her.”
“I am emotionally devastated and sick at heart and devastated by worry,” she wrote. “I fear and mourn for my son, whose childhood ended too soon.”
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