Teacher jailed for rape of student released after 195 days
SPANISH FORK, Utah (KUTV) - A high school teacher in Spanish Fork who was originally arrested for raping a 17-year-old student is now out of jail.
The probable cause statement reports Sarah Lewis, a former teacher at Landmark High School in Spanish Fork, admitted to having sexual intercourse with the male student in her Payson home.
Court documents report Lewis gave him Hpnotiq Vodka prior to the sex and then told the teen to deny their relationship if anyone ever asked.
Early in 2017, she was charged with rape, a first degree felony. That charge was later reduced to one count of Forcible Sexual Abuse, which holds the punishment of 1-15 years in the Utah State Prison. Lewis' public defender, Tom Means, advised her to enter a plea of guilty.
According to court documents on June 25, 2017 Mr. Means came across an amended statute in Utah Code that states, "if a minor is 16 or 17 years old, the rape charge can be reduced to Unlawful Sexual Conduct, when applied to a person who holds a relationship of special trust: such as an adult teacher, employee, or volunteer."
Following this discovery, Lewis was charged with a third degree felony verses the first degree rape felony. She was released with no further jail time.
"Legislators have taken the teacher portion out of the equation," Stephen R. Allred, Defense Attorney with Zabriskie Law Firm told 2News. "I don't consider this a loophole. These 16 and 17 year olds do have a choice, and they have chosen to engage in this."
Allred believes the change in the law creates balance, while county prosecutors strongly believe anyone under the age of 18 can't legally consent to sexual activity.
"Lewis occupied a position of special trust as a teacher," Ryan Peters, Deputy Utah County Attorney said.
"They are close in age," Defense Attorney Allred said. "The behavior between Lewis and this young man is more understandable than if she had been 50."
Lewis was 27 when the unlawful sexual conduct occurred.
State Law also reads stricter punishments apply is there is more than a seven year age gap between the minor and the offender.
"Lewis isn't off the hook. she will wear that scarlet letter even after she completes three years of probation," Allred said.