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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Andrea Conners: Thoughts on Sentencing

Photo Credit: WLWT

Former Highlands High School Teacher, Andrea Conners -33, has been in the Campbell County Detention Center for 4 days now. It should be noted that throughout this process, which began to unfold when she abruptly resigned from the school in early May, she had yet to see the inside of a jail cell.

First a few thoughts on the details of the case that came out at her sentencing hearing in front of Judge Fred Stine last Wednesday.

Probably the most newsworthy piece of information was the fact that the victim in this case had been hospitalized 4 times for his own medical issues since the accusation and following admittance of guilt of Conners' and his sexual encounters. This is a direct result of Conners' illegal conduct and goes to show exactly why this is a crime and not just something these young men can crow about to their friends.

It may very well be the case that this "atta boy" attitude that our society has adopted in female teacher-male student inappropriate relationships could and should come crashing down as a result of this case. The victim in this case (and all cases like this) are just too young and too inexperienced in life in general to know how these sexual encounters will affect them now and in the future.

In some cases, emotional and/or physical damage may very well not be experienced until years down the road. For this victim, it almost had an immediate effect on his life.

90 days is jail - not prison - is the bulk of what Conners received. She also received probation, has to register as a sex offender and loses her teaching certificate forever. Sources say that her marriage with her husband, who's an elementary school principal in Cincinnati, will likely not last. Her two children will forever have to answer questions about this from their peers. Her life in this area of the country is unquestionably ruined.

Initially though, looking at other similar cases, it seems that Conners got off pretty easy with what she received from Judge Stine in terms of the jail sentence. Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney, Michelle Snodgrass, argued for 18 months to serve in the Kentucky Department of Corrections - a much tougher place to serve that where she is currently. The defense argued for straight probation, no jail time.

Looking at former Mason teacher, Stacy Schuler's, 4-year sentence for similar sexual encounters with her students, it seems on the surface Conners again got off easy. There are three possible factors that helped her case on this front.

1) She admitted guilt right away. It came out in the sentencing hearing that upon being confronted by Highlands officials and police, she admitted to the sexual encounters right away. A very stupid thing to do, legally, but probably the thing that kept her from a longer jail sentence. Judges do not like wasting tax payer money on long, drawn out trials.

I remember thinking how crazy it was that she pled guilty so early in late June. It turns out that after admitting to the crimes right away, she didn't have much of a choice.

2) While Conners' sexual encounters wasn't just a one time thing (having admitted to having sex over a 2-month time period in her classroom at Highlands, at a state park and her parents' home) it was apparently just the one victim. In contrast, Schuler had preyed on 5 of her students at Mason High School.

3) Letters from family and friends to the judge may have helped tipped the legal scales in her favor. Most notably, Former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher, wrote a letter on Conners' behalf. Streicher, like Conners, is from Delhi. Other letters in the Pre-Sentence Investigated Report reviewed by Judge Stine included letters from the victim's family and a letter from Conners' husband, in which he asked that the mother of his children receive no jail time.

Since this news broke in early May, I've been commenting that in the wake of this unfortunate situation, Highlands has come out as good as it possibly could considering the circumstances. The timing of her resignation gave Highlands the summer to wipe the slate clean and cut down on rumors and innuendo echoing through the hallways for months. The guilty plea of Conners in June kept a lot of the salacious details out of court records. And let's face it, they should thank their lucky stars former Dixie and Ben-Gal Sara Jones, is embattled in a similar legal battle that has the nation gripped.

With the details of the victim having been hospitalized because of the relationship with the former Highlands teacher, I wouldn't be surprised to see Conners - and possibly the school district - being named as a defendant in a civil case.

I've talked to a legal analyst who has experience with these types of suits, and they contend these types of civil suits against school districts are not unprecedented. Especially since at least one of the sexual encounters happened in a Highlands classroom.

This situation is unfortunate. Andrea Conners is an outlier, not the norm. Here's hoping that the victim recovers, Highlands' reputation recovers, and Conners learns her lesson.

5 comments:

  1. A 17 year old engaging in multiple acts with this teacher and this article blames only the teacher? It's not like it was once and he ran telling someone.

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  2. Anonymous, of course the teacher is to be held responsible. A juvenile is psychologically undeveloped and unable to fully weigh the consequences of their decisions. The teacher is in a position of authority and as such, has a responsibility not to abuse that power.

    As for the number of times it happened, I'm not seeing how it is relevant to your point? Are you saying since it happened more than once, it is somehow less of a crime?

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  3. An article and a criminal verdict are two different things. It's for the judge and jury to decide an appropriate legal punishment for the teacher (who admitted guilt). Its perfectly reasonable to question the actions of the 17 year old as well. Yes he is a minor (just 1 year shy of being able to vote and go to war, etc.) but there is something to be said for recognizing right from wrong-and once recognizing it taking steps to remedy the problem. I've been 17 and the age is definitely confusing, but there is some responsibility there. For example, he could have told someone his teacher was acting strange to him. At any point along the way its reasonable to expect him to stand up for himself (even just a little) and let someone know.

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  4. The criminal here gets a slap on the wrist she will never suffer the same punishment as the majority of anyone labled a sex offender in this country. She will never have to search for a residence that takes sex offenders she will never have to go without eating, worry about being violated and sent to prison for 5 years because she got evicted because she is a sex offender, wont need to worry about a job Why because her parents are going to take care of her. But are they going to do it in THEIR neighborhood. OH know they bought the house she and her husband lived in and they are even remodeling it for her so she has a beautifuly decorated 250,000 dollar home to live in poor Andrea and guess what the civil suit the family should be able to file will get them nothing because the house is no longer in Andreas name. They should sue the parents apparently they have raised a self centered spoiled rotten child who has never grown up. Shame on Campbell county judge for making it so easy on her yet convicts imature uneducated young men for having sex with minors. those men serve time because there parents dont have money or connections. They are sentenced to a life of misery and are called rapist. Andrea ...well she had a relationship PLEASE

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  5. Well...looks like she got quite a punishment, compared to Sarah Jones...who got off Scott free.

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