After confusion over law, teacher who had sex with underage student sentenced to 195 days in jail, goes free

A former Utah County teacher who admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old student has been sentenced to 195 days in jail and placed on three years of probation.

Third District Judge Kraig Powell, who imposed the punishment on Tuesday, gave Sarah Lindsay Lewis credit for the 195 days she already has served and also ordered her to register as a sex offender, according to court records. 

The sentence ends a legal proceeding that had even confused lawyers. At one point, Lewis had pleaded guilty to a more severe charge and faced years in prison. 

Lewis, then 27, a social studies and dance teacher at Landmark High School in Spanish Fork, was arrested in January on allegations that she had a sexual encounter with the underage student and provided him with alcohol. A second 17-year-old student reported in February that he also had sex with Lewis, according to court records.

Prosecutors filed two counts of first-degree felony rape, as well as one count of felony witness tampering and four misdemeanor county counts of providing alcohol to a minor against Lewis. As part of a plea agreement, she pleaded guilty in June to one count of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony that can bring a prison term of 1 to 15 years.

In July, Thomas Means, Lewis’ defense attorney, filed a motion asking that Lewis be allowed to withdraw her guilty plea or be sentenced for a third-degree felony, which has a maximum 5-year sentence.

Means said in the motion that he was unaware when Lewis entered her plea that the law on unlawful sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old, which is a third-degree felony, had been amended by the Utah Legislature in 2014.

The changes made the elements of unlawful sexual activity, as applied to a teacher, identical to the elements of forcible sexual abuse, according to the motion. Means argued that “equal protection requires that, although Lewis has entered her plea of guilty to a second degree felony, Lewis should be punished only under the lower third degree felony for her crime of having taken indecent liberties with a 16- or 17-year old.”

Powell granted the request and reduced the charge.

from The Salt Lake Tribune


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