A school district employee was convicted of sexual assault of a child, improper relationship between an educator and a student and tampering with evidence. He appealed his convictions.
The Texas Court of Appeals reviewed the evidence presented at trial. The defendant began working with the district as a substitute teacher and was hired for a full-time position as a computer technician. In his position working on the district's computers, the defendant maintained an office at an elementary school.
The evidence at trial showed that the defendant volunteered to coach softball for his daughter's team. His daughter developed a friendship with a teammate who began to spend weekends with the daughter at the defendant's home.
At trial, the girl testified that she began a romantic relationship with the defendant shortly after she began spending her weekends at his home. The relationship continued for three to four years. During this time, although the defendant denied having a relationship with the girl, he admitted that he was in love with her. He also admitted that he gave her gifts in the years he'd known her that included gift cards, black lingerie, and toward the end of their relationship, an engagement ring. He denied that he ever proposed marriage to the girl.
The relationship was discovered when the defendant's and the girl's homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey and both families temporarily moved in with the girl's uncle while their homes were repaired.
The defendant appealed on multiple grounds, including his conviction and 20-year prison sentence for engaging in an inappropriate relationship between an educator and a student.
For certified professionals, a person commits the offense of inappropriate relationship between an educator and student if the teacher engages in a sexual relationship with any person the teacher knows is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school.
However, the standard is different for non-certified school district employees. For those employees, the employee commits the offense if the employee engages in a relationship with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works.
The basis for the defendant's appeal on that conviction was that during the relationship, his office as a computer technician was at the elementary school, not at the high school where the student was enrolled.
The Court of Appeals noted that the evidence at trial showed that although the defendant's office was in the elementary school, he worked on computers at the high school and performed work on that campus during the time that he was engaged in the relationship with the student. The court therefore held that the jury had sufficient evidence to infer that the defendant worked at the high school during a period in which he engaged in an improper relationship with the girl.
The defendant's conviction for the offense of inappropriate relationship between an educator and student was upheld.
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