A former Riverton High School math and basketball instructor accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student pleaded guilty Friday to reduced charges that will keep the 23-year-old teacher from having a felony record.
Courtney Louise Jarrell pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor sexual battery for her sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
The prosecution agreed to exchange more serious felony charges with which Jarrell was originally charged for misdemeanor counts provided she agree to turn in her teaching license, according to court documents.
Jarrell’s attorney Kenneth Brown has long maintained that his client had a consensual relationship with the teen and did not use her positions at the school to exercise any power over the girl.
“It was clearly a consensual relationship and Utah law allows these kinds of relationships given how close they were in age — my client is not substantially older than this student,” Brown said. “The state will never be able to establish that she had a position of authority over the alleged victim.”
According to Utah law, a 17-year-old can consent to sexual activity with another person aged 24 or younger.
Jarrell taught math and coached the sophomore girls’ basketball team at the school, but the alleged victim was neither in her class nor on her team.
Brown has said the two young women simply “fell in love.”
But prosecutors have said Jarrell’s relationship with the student was not only improper, it was criminal.
According to court documents, Jarrell had a sexual encounter with the female student between February and March, during which Jarrell is accused of touching the student’s breasts and genitals while the girl was at the teacher’s Salt Lake County residence.
Jarrell resigned from her position shortly after she was criminally charged in April, though Jordan School District officials suspended her when the sex-abuse complaint was filed with the school a month prior. She had been with the district for less than a year.
Jarrell is scheduled to be sentenced before 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck in early April.
She could face up to three years in jail, but prosecutors will likely recommend no time behind bars for the former teacher and coach.
Jarrell was originally charged with second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse, which had a one- to 15-year possible prison term, and first-degree felony object rape, which carried a sentence of five years to life.
At an August preliminary hearing, the teen testified her relationship with Jarrell was consensual.