Friday, August 10, 2007

Teacher Melissa Chase Gets Prison

(Augusta, Georgia) In November 2006, a 28-year-old teacher and softball coach at Harlem High School, Melissa Chase, was charged with felony sexual assault for engaging in sex with a 16-year-old female student at school.

In June 2007, Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. found Melissa Chase, now 29, guilty of sexual assault at a bench trial in Richmond County Superior Court.

Last week, Chase was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Melissa L. Chase, 29, stood trembling before the judge, dressed in a jail uniform of bright orange cotton smock and pants, her hands and feet chained.

She blamed no one but herself, apologizing profusely to her victim, family, friends, supporters and former peers - those hurt because of her selfishness, she said. As her supporters in Richmond County Superior Court cried, Ms. Chase apologized for the embarrassment she had caused. She spoke of her shame in seeing her parents in tears begging a judge for mercy. She asked for none for herself.

In a Richmond County bench trial in June, Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. found Ms. Chase guilty of sexual assault against a student enrolled in school. She had a single sexual encounter last year with a 16-year-old girl. The teenager had been one of her students the previous year.
There was a general belief that the sentence was unnecessarily harsh and Judge Brown agreed. However, he said legislators have taken a strong position against child sex offenders and he had to abide by mandatory minimums in sentencing.

For comparison, a case in Kentucky this week resulted in a 51-year-old woman, Jeni Lee Dinkel, being sentenced to a mere 60 days in jail for the rape of a 15-year-old boy. And, unlike Melissa Chase's crime, Dinkel's offense wasn't a one-time occurrence.

So, one adult female mixes it up with a teen and gets 60 days, the other gets 10 years. It just don't seem right. If I were the judge, each would have received two, maybe three, years.

Tip: Don Morgenstern

[Update 6/15/09]

Georgia Supreme Court overturns the conviction of Melissa Chase and rules that teachers having sex with consenting students is legal.

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