A former Riverton High School math and basketball teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student was ordered Monday to stand trial.
Ex-teacher Courtney Louise Jarrell, 22, is charged in 3rd District Court with object rape, a first-degree felony, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. If found guilty, she could face up to life in prison for the first charge and up to 15 years for the second.
Jarrell’s attorney Kenneth Brown said Tuesday that his client had a consensual relationship with the teen, who testified to that effect at a Monday preliminary hearing in West Jordan.
"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."
Prosecutors must establish that the defendant was in a position of trust or authority over the alleged victim in order to convict Jarrell of the crimes with which they have charged her. 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 said the two young women simply "fell in love."
But prosecutors maintain that Jarrell’s relationship with the student was unlawful.
According to court documents, Jarrell had a sexual encounter with a 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 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.
"We immediately looked into it, and within hours of the complaint, she was suspended, and everything was turned over to Draper police," school district spokeswoman Sandra Riesgraf said. "We felt that it was something that rose to that level [of police involvement]."
Jarrell will be arraigned before Judge Bruce Lubeck on Sept. 23, at which time she will enter not guilty pleas, according to Brown.
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