By CASEY KNAUPP
A former Smith County jailer was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years probation for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old Bullard High School student while she was a substitute teacher there.
Jennifer Elizabeth Bagley, 35, was convicted of having an improper relationship between educator and student Wednesday, by a Smith County jury after about an hour of deliberation. The jury in 241st District Judge Jack Skeen Jr.'s court sentenced her, also after about an hour of deliberation.
Skeen ordered that Ms. Bagley serve six months in the Smith County Jail as a condition of her probation, and she will be under intensive supervision for the first three years.
Ms. Bagley will not have to register as a sex offender. State law does not require registration as a sex offender for improper relationship between an educator and student.
She has a pending charge of sexual assault of a child concerning the same victim and is scheduled to go to trial for that offense in October.
Ms. Bagley worked as a guard at the Smith County Jail in the mid-1990s before becoming an officer at the Juvenile Attention Center. She also held several other jobs involving children throughout the years and was a substitute teacher at Bullard, Jacksonville and Tyler schools for six to seven years, she said.
The victim, now 19 and a prison guard, testified Tuesday that she was a 16-year-old junior at Bullard High School on Oct. 26, 2004, when she and her substitute, Ms. Bagley, began a sexual affair that lasted for more than a year. She said she and Ms. Bagley had sex 15-20 times, and the teacher also gave her marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.
Ms. Bagley frequently told her, "If I go down, you're going down with me," she said.
A male student at Bullard High School, during the same time, said Ms. Bagley supplied him with Xanax, Vicodin and other pain pills.
Prosecutors said she also supplied the students with cocaine.
After the jury convicted the defendant Wednesday, Ms. Bagley testified during the punishment trial and repeatedly denied committing the offense.
Ms. Bagley, who said she was bisexual, said "I haven't had sex with no students. ... I haven't given any students or children drugs."
She said a teacher who supplies drugs and alcohol to students and has sex with them should be punished with the maximum 20-year sentence. She said the jury's guilty verdict was incorrect and the girl who testified they had sex was a liar.
On Aug. 20, Ms. Bagley was in court and learned her case was to go to trial that day. After leaving the courtroom, she said she was feeling ill and requested that someone call 911.
The defendant said she did take 70 Xanax and did not make up the story to avoid trial. She said she didn't recall why she took the Xanax and didn't remember the incident.
Ms. Bagley has worked at the Smith County Jail, the Juvenile Attention Center, a detention facility for Chapel Hill elementary school students and at the Andrew's Center. She said she went on mental disability around 2000, but was a substitute for as many hours as she could work "without becoming mentally distraught."
After the jury returned its verdict, the victim's family members delivered victim impact statements while Ms. Bagley held her head down.
"Have you no shame?" asked the victim's grandfather. "Shame on you for preying on vulnerable students in your exalted position as a teacher, an educator, a framer of young minds.
"As a citizen of the Bullard School District, I am appalled by your activities."
The victim's grandmother said she felt the jury's verdict of probation sent the wrong message to the community.
"You're saying it's OK; she can walk around, be free," she said. "It is not OK."
The girl's father told Ms. Bagley that what she did was cowardly and pathetic.
Talking about his daughter, he said, "I am proud of who she has become. ... She's stronger now than she ever was."
Assistant Smith County District Attorney Zach Davis said Ms. Bagley had never been convicted of a felony before Wednesday but she had committed many felony offenses, including every time she had sex with the student and each time she gave drugs or alcohol to children.
"Teachers guide," he said. "They lead by example, they educate our children and they must have the trust of the parents of the community. ... She has harmed not only (the victim) but teachers everywhere."
Davis said it was bad enough students bring drugs to school without the teachers doing it.
Defense attorney Don Davidson said Ms. Bagley will carry the label of being a convicted felon with her for the rest of her life. He asked the jurors to look at her past education and work background, as well as her disability. He said she was worthy of probation.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Murphy disagreed and said she deserved a 20-year sentence.
"Y'all decide when you want her back in your community," he said.
He said it was bad enough when a woman has sex and gives drugs to a 16-year-old, but it was especially bad when a teacher does it. The victim's father asks himself why he can't protect his daughter while she's at school, Murphy said.
The victim's father testified Wednesday that what happened to his daughter has also had an affect on him.
"As a father I have nurtured (her) and loved her ... and to see her degraded, manipulated and used has been quite a pill to swallow," he said.
He said his daughter was not a perfect angel but when she became involved with Ms. Bagley, her behavior worsened.
"I felt violated that the most precious thing God has blessed me with had been ripped from me," he said, adding it was very traumatic for him to watch his daughter fall apart in front of him and there was nothing he could do. He said he tried to protect his daughter but failed miserably.
"What Ms. Bagley did, a teacher does not have the right to do," he said.
Jim Larson was called to testify on behalf of Ms. Bagley. He said he had lived by the defendant for 13 years and she was a nice, good neighbor. He said he was surprised and shocked to hear of her criminal conduct.
A probation officer, who supervised Ms. Bagley for three months while she was out of jail on bond, testified that the defendant was drug tested six times, and each result came back negative. She said the tests did not include detecting Xanax.