Monday, 16 October, 2017

Judge throws out sex charges against teacher, calls law unconstitutional

Witt and Solomon Ashley Remkus Witt and Solomon Ashley Remkus
Melinda Barton | 12 August, 2017, 17:10

In a surprising turn of events, an Alabama judge has deemed Alabama's teacher-student sex law unconstitutional, leaving two school officials free after they were charged with engaging in sexual conduct with a student.

The ruling comes as Judge Glenn Thompson dismissed charges against two former high school teachers-Carrie Witt, 44, and David Solomon, 27-who had sexual relationships with their students whose ages ranged from 17 to 18. But Thompson said that the language of the law make it hard for court to determine whether both parties are consulting adults, whether the school employees are in a position of authority over the student and whether those employees used their authority to coerce the student into letting them hit it.

Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson says he disagrees with the ruling.

Though the age of consent is 16 in Alabama, a law was passed in 2010 that made it a felony for a school employee to have sex with a student under 19 years old. "He writes: ".this court does not endeavor to absolve any wrongdoing or to excuse the defendants. Violation of the law carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Consent is not a defense to the law, al.com reported.

'If no such position of authority is alleged, the defendant must be permitted to show consent as a defense'. The judge who handed the case ruled that "current laws protect vulnerable people such as those who are mentally incapacitated and minors". At the time not only was she a teacher, she was also girls' golf and junior varsity cheer coach.

Thompson wrote that while the state has a legitimate objective in protecting certain classes of people, like students, prisoners and patients from being coerced by teachers, wardens or doctors, the law doesn't narrowly address that issue.

The judge handling this case stated that the charges against the teacher could not be dismissed despite the victim's lawyer terming the accusations as unconstitutional.

However, the law is harsher on teachers and school employees than other citizens, who do not face criminal prosecution for having sex with 16-year-olds.

Thompson cited student-teacher sex laws in other states that he believes are constitutional.

"The statute at hands embeds an irrebuttable presumption that any sexual encounter between an employee of any school and any student in the state ... is conclusively the result of a misuse of authority".