Saturday, June 20, 2009

Arkansas teacher charged with sexual assault of 18 year old student sentenced to 5 years probation, 120 days jail

(Originally Posted 4-1-08)
The arraignment for a Arkansas teacher charged with having sex with an 18 year student and giving him alcohol 4 times was arraigned yesterday. Melissa Gail Monroe, 32 was charged with 2nd degree sexual assault, a Class B felony, and furnishing alcohol to a minor, a Class C misdemeanor.

According to court documents, Monroe invited the young man to her house on a January evening when her husband was out of town. The student later told police they had sex and he stayed the night. The boy had just turned 18.

It is illegal in Arkansas for teachers, law enforcement officers and others in a position of trust or authority over a minor (under age 21) to engage in sexual conduct with the minor. [If there is a fiduciary relationship between two people, then it should be illegal in all cases, not just when victims are people under drinking age]. Statements made by Monroe to a fellow teacher indicate she may not have known the act was illegal.

Monroe sent a text message [to] a fellow teacher at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14 that read, "Help! I've made the worst decision of my life. And I don't know what to do." Monroe said that January night she was drinking and texting with a student, court documents say. She said the student wanted to come over but she told him no. Eventually, he came over and they had sex three times, according to a probable cause affidavit submitted by Detective Mark Jordan of the Bentonville Police Department.

Later that evening, Monroe texted, "You don't hate me do you?" and "At least he was legal. Haha."

On Feb. 19, the fellow teacher went to Principal Steve Jacoby and said Monroe told her she had sex with the student. Police were summoned, and the student was interviewed.Monroe initially denied allegations to police but later admitted having sex with the student, the affidavit states. Police asked her if the boy forced himself on her, and she said no. Monroe worked in the Bentonville School District for seven and a half years.

Class B felonies in Arkansas are punishable by between 5 and 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.

(Update 5-18-08) Monroe is appealing, stating through her lawyer that she'll appral the portion of the law which states that sexual contact with 18 year old students is unconstitutional.

(Update 9-14-08) Benton County Circuit Judge David Clinger rejected Monroe's argument that the statute violated the rights of consenting adults to "engage in private, consensual, noncommercial acts of sexual intimacy." Lawyer Allan Lane cited Lawrence vs. Texas.

The state, led by Deputy Prosecutor Joni Rose, countered the law is rational because the state had a right to promote a safe environment in schools.

(Update 6-20-09) Monroe and her attorneys were scheduled to introduce arguments Thursday, June 18, that would have let them introduce the sexual history of the student she was charged with victimizing in preparation for the trial on June 23. However, she pled guilty as charged to a count of 2nd degree sexual assault and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Monroe's attorney, Alan Lane, and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joni Rose were able to resolve the case with a plea agreement that requires Monroe to serve a jail sentence and be placed on state-supervised probation.

Rose told Circuit Judge David Clinger that Monroe's case is unusual because she is charged with having sex with an adult, but her actions are a crime. Rose said the victim and law enforcement supported the plea agreement. Lane told Clinger that Monroe is already seeing a counselor and that she and her husband are also involved with marriage counseling.

Clinger did not object to the lack of jail time because he was "satisfied you suffered in this regard -You lost your job." Rose stated that "From what the state understands, Mrs. Monroe will never teach again."

Besides 5 years probation, Monroe was sentenced to 120 days in the Benton County Jail, $1670 in court costs, and sex offender registration. Monroe has to report to jail by 7 PM August 23.

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