FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — A former high school English teacher who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing three male students said Thursday she was vulnerable and made mistakes, but a Utah judge scolded her for committing serious crimes and sentenced her to up to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors say one of the boys was 16 and two were 17 when Brianne Altice had sex with them. The 36-year-old Altice was initially free while her case played out, but was sent to jail in January after allegations emerged that she continued a sexual relationship with one of the boys while she was out on bail.
Her lawyer said Altice is a damaged person who gave into daily flirtations from the boys because she was belittled at home and dealing with self-esteem problems.
She cried as she apologized to the victims at a sentencing hearing Thursday.
"I am human, and I messed up during a very vulnerable time in my life," she said.
The mother of the then-16-year-old victim said her son was also vulnerable.
"You hurt my son in ways that you will never know. You hurt all of those boys," said the woman. She did not give her name, and The Associated Press does not generally identify family members of sexual assault victims to avoid revealing a victim's identity.
She said her son has been threatened and their home vandalized over the case, and he's still dealing with serious emotional effects of the abuse.
While prosecutor Cristina Ortega acknowledged that the students flirted, she said Altice should have put a stop to it. "She enjoyed the positive attention she was getting from them, but I think she failed to recognize that she was the adult, and this wasn't positive attention," she said.
Altice pleaded guilty to three counts of forcible sexual abuse in April.
She sent a handwritten letter to Judge Thomas Kay last month asking him not to send her to prison. She said she's harmless, and promised she wouldn't repeat the crime.
But Kay said Thursday that she needs to change her life, and he believed that would require prison time.
"You were the adult, you were the teacher, you were the one that could have stopped that from happening," he said.
Prosecutors say she befriended the boys, allowing them to hang out in her classroom, and the relationships later turned sexual. One victim said he considered her to be his girlfriend during their yearlong sexual relationship.
She was fired shortly after the allegations came to light, and her husband filed for divorce and custody of their child.
Her lawyer Ed Brass said she was no longer the boys' teacher when the sex occurred. He later said she took the plea deal to avoid an uncertain outcome at trial.
Parents of two boys sued the school district, saying that officials knew that Altice was behaving inappropriately but didn't do enough to stop her. They alleged in court papers that the running joke at the high school was, "Who is Ms. Altice sleeping with now?"
One lawsuit was withdrawn after state attorneys said schools aren't responsible for injuries arising from assaults. The other is still pending.
Altice was first arrested in October 2013 after a student reported having a relationship with her, and two more victims later came forward with similar allegations.