Sunday, July 19, 2009

South Jersey teacher guilty of indecent liberties with 16 year old boy

A Westampton, NJ teacher's aide faces 5 to 10 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old boy who she met at detention. The 6 man and 6 woman jury deliberated for 3 hours before finding Donna Goebel, 45, guilty of having sex with a student she met in her health class at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year in the Burlington County Special Services School.

During the trial, the teenager testified he had a normal student-teacher relationship with Goebel, but in January 2008 they began calling and text messaging each other. Soon, he said, they were exchanging "I love you, babe" text messages and taking trips to the mall and Atlantic City. He stayed overnight at her house and had sex "two or three times" in his bedroom, the teen testified.

Burlington County Assistant Prosecutors Kevin Morgan and Daniel Rosenberg argued that Goebel and the teen had consensual sex, but that it was illegal because of her status and supervisory role at the school.

In New Jersey, the AOC is 16 as long as there isn't a supervisory or custodial relationship. Even so, teachers who had sex with their 18 year old students have forfeited their teaching certificates after being charged and convicted on official misconduct charges.

Goebel testified that while she never had sex with the boy, the relationship she had was inappropriate because of her status as an adult and as a mother. She blamed her husband for bringing "false charges" against her after finding pictures of her and the teen in locations including the bedroom and shower.

The teen testified that Goebel made calls to the boy asking him to recant his statements to police and the boy agreed so that Goebel would leave his family alone.

Jurors heard a taped conversation of Goebel and the boy during which she advised him that he could tell police about being at her house but also to "just don't say that part." Also, she asked him if he had changed his sheets "since then."

Defense attorney Mark Fury argued for Goebel to remain free on bail, saying she did not pose any threat to the community or the victim. He said she is a first-time offender who may serve only a year or two in prison because the sentence is not subject to parole ineligibility.

"This is not a violent crime," Fury said, noting that Goebel had family support and no place to flee. He said revoking her bail would be "just plain mean."

Morley doubled bond from $75,000 to $150,000 because Goebel may leave Burlington County to live with family, and also because "I need some added surety. There's been a monumental shift with the return of the verdict."

Goebel is being held at the Minimum Security Facility in Pemberton until sentencing, scheduled for October 18.

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