Teacher gets 10 years for sex with teen

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Brian Rogers brian.rogers@chron.com

A mid­dle school teacher who pleaded guilty to hav­ing a long-term sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with a 13-year-old boy was sen­tenced Fri­day to 10 years in prison.

Alexan­dria Vera, 24, a for­mer Al­dine ISD teacher, ad­mit­ted to the re­la­tion­ship last year in ex­change for a sen­tence de­cided by the judge.

State Dis­trict Judge Michael McS­pad­den said Fri­day he be­lieves Vera is not a clas­sic pe­dophile and poses no dan­ger to other chil­dren, but that he wanted to send a mes­sage to the com­mu­nity.

“We want our ed­u­ca­tors to teach our stu­dents,” he told Vera, who ear­lier pleaded guilty to ag­gra­vated sex­ual as­sault of a child. “We want them to keep their hands off the stu­dents.”

The sen­tenc­ing was com­pli­cated by the boy’s fam­ily’s knowl­edge and ap­proval of the re­la­tion­ship, the judge said. Let­ters from the boy and his mother sought to put some of the re­spon­si­bil­ity on the eighth-grader, and the vic­tim’s mother wor­ried that Vera might lose her job, the judge said.

In court, how­ever, pros­e­cu­tors out­lined a string of de­cep­tions from Vera, in­clud­ing mov­ing the child and his fa­ther into her home and pre­tend­ing to the out­side world to date the fa­ther.

His­tory of de­cep­tion

Pros­e­cu­tor Denise Ni­chols said Vera had a pat­tern of ma­nip­u­la­tion to “groom” the child and his fam­ily so she could con­tinue the il­licit be­hav­ior.

“She has a his­tory of straight-out de­cep­tion,” Ni­chols said.

Vera also paid cell phone bills, bought gro­ceries for the fam­ily and at­tended hol­i­day events with them as the boy’s girl­friend.

Pros­e­cu­tors ham­mered Vera for in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior be­gin­ning in the class­room and ex­tend­ing to other stu­dents. She ap­par­ently let two eighth-graders have sex at her home, pros­e­cu­tors said in court.

The pros­e­cu­tor also said Vera’s 6-year-old daugh­ter knew about the il­licit re­la­tion­ship and for some time called the 13-year-old “dad.”

While her pos­si­ble pun­ish­ment was capped at 30 years, she was el­i­gi­ble for pro­ba­tion, which her lawyer ar­gued would have been ap­pro­pri­ate.

De­fense at­tor­ney Ri­cardo Ro­driguez called only one wit­ness Fri­day, a ther­a­pist who pro­filed Vera to out­line her men­tal state.

“I think she was driven by be­ing in love with him,” said Karen Law­son, a men­tal health pro­fes­sional who works with sex of­fend­ers, in­clud­ing sex ad­dicts.

‘Has a big heart’

Law­son said Vera’s his­tory of see­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sit­u­a­tions as she was grow­ing up, cou­pled with a deep need for love, led her to a re­la­tion­ship with a young man who flat­tered and seemed to adore her.

“She’s some­one who has a big heart,” Law­son said.

Vera has been free on $100,000 bail but has had to wear a GPS an­kle mon­i­tor, stay away from schools and have no con­tact with the teen. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said she be­came preg­nant by the teen, but had an abor­tion, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Vera had faced a pun­ish­ment range of 25 years to life in prison if con­victed of con­tin­u­ous sex­ual as­sault of a child, a felony with a height­ened pun­ish­ment, even for first of­fend­ers.

Vera was ar­rested af­ter of­fi­cials with Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices were no­ti­fied about a pos­si­ble sex­ual re­la­tion­ship.

Vera and the teen ap­par­ently met when he was a stu­dent of hers in sum­mer school at Sto­vall Mid­dle School, ac­cord­ing to court records.

Bob Levey

Alexan­dria Vera, 24, ap­peared at her sen­tenc­ing hear­ing with her at­tor­ney, Ri­cardo Ro­driguez. Vera faced a pun­ish­ment of up to 30 years in prison.

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