Saturday, October 2, 2010
Female swim coach charged with sexual abuse of 17 year old girl pleads guilty, sentenced to year in jail
Sarah Blessing, a 27 year old South Plainfield, NJ woman who is a 5th grade teacher and Edison, NJ swim coach, was charged Wednesday, December 2 with sexually exploiting a 17 year old swim student at Bishop George Ahr High School. Blessing was formally charged with sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a girl, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan and Edison police chief Thomas Bryan.
The relationship lasted for 6 months, from June to her arrest, according to officials, and was found out when Diocese of Metuchen officials notified Edison police. The Metuchen Dioscese fired Blessing from her swim coach job, a job she held for four years. "The Diocese and Bishop Ahr High School is shocked and saddened to learn of these allegations," officials said in a statement [December 1, 2009]. We, of course, take matters of this nature very seriously."
Blessing , a 5th grade teacher at Park Middle School in Scotch Plains, was suspended from that job pending the outcome of her case. She is being held on $150,000 bond without a cash option at the Middlesex County Jail in North Brunswick. Superior Court Judge James Mulvihill has ordered that Blessing not contact her victim.
Authorities ask that anybody with information about Blessing call Investigator Raj Chopra of the prosecutor’s office at (732) 745-3600, or Edison police detectives Michael Michalski or Tim Farrell at (732) 248-7525.
(Update 8-6-10) Blessing plead guilty yesterday to criminal sexual contact and witness tampering in front of MIddlesex County Judge Judge Joseph Paone, according to prosecutors. She must forfeit her teaching certificate and the right to hold public sector jobs in New Jersey. Blessing must also undergo mental health treatment and have no contact with the victim or girls under 18 without supervision.
She is expected to be sentenced to a year in jail when Judge Paone formally sentences Blessing on September 30.
(Update 10-2-10) Blessing was sentenced to 364 days in jail and 5 years probation September 30, 2010 by Judge Paone. At the sentencing hearing, Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Christie Bevacqua said that Blessing met the victim during a troubled period for the girl. The victim's mother asked Blessing to "watch out for her," but instead Blessing "took my daughter's innocence away." ""The betrayal of trust is a huge thing here," said Bevacqua.
Before the sentencing Blessing read a statement saying "I wasn't manipulative. It wasn't predatory. I had feelings for this person."
Blessing will not be allowed to have any contact with the victim or any unsupervised contact with females under the age of 18 and must undergo mental health counseling. Under the sentence, she can no longer teach and will be barred from holding public employment in New Jersey.
Blessing faced a maximum sentence of a decade behind bars. Criminal sexual contact is a felony which lands one on the sex offender list for life under New Jersey's Megan's Law.
Taken from a New Jersey lawyer's site:
Criminal sexual contact is a third degree charge and if a person is convicted of this crime they will face 3 to 5 years in prison, and serious fines. Additionally, the person will be required to register under New Jersey's Megan's law which is a lifelong notification system in which the local community where the offender lives is provided with his personal information and details about the crime for which he was convicted.