Carrie Witt sentenced: Decatur Alabama high school teacher who claimed it was her constitutional right to have sex with her students gets only 18 months jail.
A former Decatur, Alabama high school teacher and cheerleading coach who previously argued that it was her constitutional right to have sex with two of her students has been sentenced to state prison.
Carrie Witt, 47, on Thursday was handed a 10-year sentence, but she will only spend 18 months behind bars, followed by another 18 months in a community corrections program. The rest of her sentence will be served on probation.
Witt will also be required to register as a sex offender.
In court on Thursday, Witt offered a tearful apology for her actions, saying, in part: ‘I’m ashamed. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ashamed of myself,’ reported Decatur Daily.
One of Witt’s former students with whom she had had sex came to her defense, telling the judge that their relationship was consensual. At the time of the alleged illicit liaison, the student was 18.
Can a teacher legally or morally have sex with a student?
Robert Tuten, Witt’s attorney, told WAAY that his client has decided to not pursue a federal appeal because of the financial and emotional toll this case has taken on her.
The former female educator’s sentencing brought to a close a five-year legal saga that has drawn national attention.
In late March, just hours before she was scheduled to go to trial, Witt pleaded guilty to one count of school employee engaging in a sex act with a student.
In exchange for her plea, Morgan County prosecutors agreed to drop a second charge against Witt, who was initially accused of having sex with two boys, ages 17 and 18, back in 2016.
Witt entered a ‘blind plea’ with prosecutors without reaching a sentencing agreement, allowing them to seek up to 20 years in prison for her.
Witt taught history, psychology and social studies, as well as coaching the varsity girls’ golf team and and junior varsity cheerleading at Decatur High School, when in March 2016 she was charged with having sexual contact with two students, who were 17 and 18, respectively, at the time of the encounters.
In 2017, a judge dismissed the charges against Witt after her lawyers successfully argued that a 2010 law, that made it a felony for a school employee to have sex with a student under 19 years old, was unconstitutional.
Using her position of authority, trust and power to gain consent?
Witt claimed that she was in a consensual relationship with the students, and that she was only prosecuted for being a school employee, which violated her 14th Amendment right to privacy and equal protection.
Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson said the court found the statute ‘unconstitutional’ and that there was no proof Witt used her position of authority to force the two students to have sex.
The judge noted that Alabama state law allows students to legally have sex at age 16, as long as someone doesn’t use their position of authority to obtain that consent.
Which is to wonder as some posed on social media, had the genders been reversed and a male teacher claimed that sex with a female student ought not be prohibited, on the proviso that they too did not use their position of authority, trust and power to ‘engage’ their teen victim — would a court have ruled similarly?
Prosecutors filed an appeal and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the ruling and reinstated the charges against Witt. In its decision, the appeals court held that the ban on prohibiting school employees having sex with students 19 and younger existed to protect children, kids and the school systems.
The Assistant DA also noted despite the victim asking for leniency, Witt, despite her objections, was indeed in a person of position, authority and power and broke the bond with her victim.
She was put on administrative leave with pay by Decatur High School and resigned in April 2018 after collecting more than $116,000 from the school district.
Asked if she thought her sentencing was just, Witt told a WAAY reporter, ‘no’.