Some Iowa teachers convicted of sexually abusing students have been placed on probation rather than sentenced to prison, despite a state law requiring they spend time behind bars, a Des Moines Register investigation has found.
It was passed to hold educators and others in positions of power and influence over children to higher standards of accountability.
But the Register’s review of such cases over the past five years revealed at least seven instances in which teachers served no prison time after being convicted of sex crimes involving children attending their schools. Some judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys acknowledged the mistakes, which they said resulted from misunderstandings involving the sentencing requirements for such cases.
Legal experts said discovery of the mistakes could prompt courts to set aside the sentencing agreements or retry the cases.
The most recent cases:
- Cherokee physical education teacher Chad Osler was accused of having sex with a student over a three-year period before his arrest in 2015. In July, a judgewaived his 10-year prison term for third-degree sex abuse and instead ordered him to serve five years of probation. The victim was no more than 15 years old in 2013 when the conduct began, according to court documents.
- A Floyd County judge waived 10 years of prison and sentenced Pella band instructor Ben Thompson to five years of probation in April. Thompson was accused of sexually abusing a student 14 or 15 years old, court records show.
- Remsen-Union teacher Samantha Kohls in April was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to lascivious conduct with a minor. The case involved sex with a 17-year-old student. After probation, her conviction could be expunged.
State Court Administrator David Boyd recently alerted county attorneys and chief judges in all eight Iowa judicial districts about the sentencing errors the Register identified and reminded them of the requirements.
Mandatory reporters are generally licensed professionals in education or health care who have frequent contact with children or dependent adults in the course of their work. The law requires they notify the Iowa Department of Human Services within 24 hours after learning of potential abuse.
All of the cases examined during the review involved victims under 18 years old and educators convicted under Chapter 709, the state’s sex abuse law. That statute, passed in 1997, states that mandatory reporters who are themselves convicted of sex abuse are not eligible for so-called “deferred” or “suspended” sentences.
“How they get by that, I have no idea,” said Nancy Wells, director of the Iowa Chapter of Children’sAdvocacy Centers, a group associated with Iowa health providers that helps provide training and advocacy against abuse.
See More- Source: Desmoines Register