No jail time for former Utah teacher accused of sex with teen
West Jordan • Courtney Louise Jarrell was a well-liked teacher. She was young and energetic. Her supervisors said she had a bright future in the career she spent years cultivating.
But after pleading guilty to having a romantic and sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, the former Riverton High School math and basketball instructor will never again step foot in a classroom.
On Tuesday, 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck decided that was punishment enough.
"Everyone involved seems to think there should be no jail, but I've gone back and forth and back and forth and back again I won't mention how many times," Lubeck said before issuing his ruling. "I can't come to grips with the notion that this is just bad judgment. All crimes are bad judgment. ... The fact remains you were a teacher and she was a student."
Jarrell, 22, was sentenced to 18 months of court-supervised probation with no jail time for three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery for her relationship with a female Riverton student.
Each count carried a potential maximum penalty of one year in jail.
Jarrell, who cried throughout Tuesday's proceeding, was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay $900 in fines.
"I've lost my teaching license that was something I worked really hard for, and I've been punished throughout the whole year," Jarrell said through tears. "I'll never be in a school again like that. I don't even know if I can go on field trips with my nieces or nephews ever again."
As she spoke, Jarrell's family looked on.
Her attorney, Kenneth Brown, said that in addition to her teaching license, Jarrell lost friends and was ostracized from her community after news of her relationship circulated.
"Miss Jarrell is a good person who fell in love with a student and that's what resulted in the conduct that occurred," Brown said. "She was a first year teacher who's lost the ability to ever teach again. Her college degree and all that is worthless at this point."
Prosecutors did not ask that Jarrell be sent to jail. They acknowledged the relationship that formed between the teacher and student was "factually consensual" and said the girl did not see herself as a victim.
"A 22-year-old teacher who was just a few months into her teaching career forgot that she was the teacher, forgot that she was the coach, and not a student anymore herself," said prosecutor Tyson Hamilton. "She admits she should have taken every precaution possible to avoid the situation. But she didn't. And now she's lost her career "
Jarrell was originally charged with second-degree 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.
But prosecutors agreed to exchange those charges for lesser counts provided Jarrell give up her teaching license, according to court documents.
The student with whom Jarrell was accused of having a relationship sat alone in the gallery Tuesday morning. She declined to speak to the judge, though at an August preliminary hearing, she testified that her relationship with Jarrell was consensual.
Prosecutors said the victim and her family had asked that Jarrell not be incarcerated.
Jarrell taught math and coached the sophomore girl's basketball team at the school, but the alleged victim was neither in her class nor on her team.
According to Utah law, a 17-year-old can consent to sexual activity with another person aged 24 or younger.
Even so, the judge said Tuesday, Jarrell was a teacher at the girl's school. Her actions violated the trust placed in her by the student's parents, the school itself and the community at large.
"Ought Ms. Jarrell to be an example of what happens if you break that trust that people inherently have that people are going to take care of my kids in school and not, as you say, include them in a dating pool?" the judge asked. "Schools, even high schools, are supposed to be a safe place. Sometimes students see to it that that isn't true, but it ought not to be the teachers who do the same."
Court documents state Jarrell had a sexual encounter with the student between February and March in 2013, 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 at Riverton High shortly after she was criminally charged in April 2013, 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.
When asked by the judge if she had any more to say before he sentenced her, Jarrell shook her head slowly, her long blonde hair covering her face like a drawn curtain.
"I'm just ready for this to be over," she said.
"I understand," the judge replied. "But it's never over. And this won't be for a long time."