Amy Bass Jackson, a Bulloch County middle school teacher accused of molesting a teenage student last July, shook visibly Wednesday as she pled guilty to three of eight charges.
Bulloch County Superior Court Judge Gates Peed sentenced Jackson to 15 years, five to serve, then suspended the sentence. The former eighth grade language arts teacher at William James Middle was given 500 to 600 days of detention after pleading guilty to statutory rape, sexual exploitation of children and unlawful disposition of sexually explicit material to minors.
Bass will serve the maximum year and eight months in a women's probation detention center, where she will receive psychosexual evaluation. As part of her sentence, she will remain on probation during the 15 years, must not have any contact with the 14-year-old victim or his family, must surrender all teaching certificates and licenses, and adhere to sex offender requirements.
Also, she is banned from the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit — Bulloch, Effingham, Jenkins and Screven counties.
Jackson was arrested July 27, 2011 after the 14-year-old victim's parents told authorities she had sex with the child. Jackson resigned from her position at William James when she learned of her pending arrest.
As part of the plea bargain, Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Mallard asked Peed to nolle prosse, or dismiss, charges of aggravated child molestation, child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, sexual assault by a person with supervisory or disciplinary authority, computer or electronic child exploitation.
Jackson in court
As Jackson stood shackled in a gray and white striped Bulloch County Jail uniform, her parents flanked her, embracing each other with heads bowed.
Jackson trembled violently as Mallard read her charges and recommendations for sentencing.
She quietly sobbed as Peed spoke, answering him in a small, tearful voice. The victim's family members sat quietly in the courtroom as he addressed the case.
Peed reminded Jackson she could face 145 years to life under the law, and that had she chosen to go to trial, jury selection for her case was set for next Wednesday.
"This is an unusual case," he said. "It is very disturbing to the court and, I'm sure, to the community ... It doesn't involve nameless, faceless people. It involves people that are real."
All cases have extenuating circumstances, he said.
"Court is not deaf, or blind, or dumb to those particular circumstances. The question is, where does justice lie?"
Several aspects of the case concerned him, he said.
"If the sexes were reversed, it wouldn't be a question. If you were a male and the victim (was) a female, 145 years wouldn't be enough, and all would agree."
Jackson fidgeted, bouncing in her seat, as Peed addressed her status as the victim's teacher.
"We're talking about a teacher and a former student ... a position of trust, watch care, over one subject to authority," he said. "You were the adult. That doesn't leave (the victim) without responsibility, but certainly puts the greater (responsibility) on you. Lives have been altered for everybody involved."
Details of the sentence
Peed then handed down the sentence recommended by the district attorney’s office. For the statutory rape charge, Jackson received 15 years, five to serve, with the five years suspended in lieu of 500 to 600 days in the probation detention center, where she is to receive the psychosexual evaluation, he said.
The charge stems from Jackson having sexual intercourse with the teen in his home while his parents were away.
Peed also sentenced Jackson to 15 years for the sexual exploitation of children charge (involving sending sexually explicit photos of herself to the teen) and 12 years for the charge of unlawful disposition of sexually explicit material to minors(sexually graphic messages). Those sentences run concurrently with the first, he said.
"The court reluctantly, and I underline 'reluctantly,' accepts the agreement," he said.
Mallard declined to comment about the plea agreement.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.