Former Fresno middle school teacher sentenced to a year in jail for sex crimes with student

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A former Tenaya Middle School teacher has been sentenced to one year in jail for sex crimes with a student.

A judge handed down the sentencing to Justine Nelson in a Fresno courtroom Thursday morning.

In April, a jury found Nelson guilty of committing a sexual act with an eighth-grader when he was 13.

Nelson had hoped she would not be taken to jail but instead given just probation.

Instead, on Thursday, she left court in handcuffs headed to serve one year.

She cried when the judge imposed accountability through time in custody. The teacher was 30 at the time and the student was 14 when she was arrested.

RELATED: Jury finds former middle school teacher guilty of sex act with student

Even as she was remanded into custody, her attorney begged the judge to reconsider the one-year jail sentence.

Roger Nuttall pointed out all that the former teacher is leaving to be locked up - including her 4-year-old child.

But the judge who heard the evidence said the crime warrants jail time. She described the initial contact between the teacher and student as a student searching for support and validation from an adult. But when he sent her messages about basketball, she responded with seductive pictures of herself.

"Ms Nelson sexually abused a child who at most was a few weeks over 13 years old contrary to the defense's portrayal," said the Hon. Kristi Culver Kapetan of the Fresno County Superior Court.

RELATED: Former Fresno Unified teacher testifies, admits to sexual relationship with 13-year-old

The prosecutor said Nelson has never taken responsibility for her actions and continually tries to excuse her behavior by blaming the 8th grade accuser.

"She has continually portrayed herself as a victim. She is not. She is a grown woman, an educated school teacher," said Deputy District Attorney Liz Owen.

Nuttall said the victim was a sexually aggressive teenager who preyed on her.

"We did not attack the victim in this case. We called it the way we saw it. He was profane, he was dirty in his mannerisms and language," Nuttall said.

When the trial ended this past spring, Nelson was pregnant. But her attorney said she has since given birth and put the baby up for adoption. The infant was not from her husband. The two are now in the process of getting a divorce.

Nelson will be on probation after she serves her sentence. Her family also came to court and cried when she was handcuffed.
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