SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KTLA) — A Redlands teacher who had admitted to having sexual relations with three of her male students — and a baby with one teen who called her a “predator” — was sentenced to a year in county jail Wednesday.
Laura Whitehurst, 28, had been charged with 41 counts of sex and oral copulation with a minor, but she had pleaded guilty July 31 to just six of the counts. The other charges were dismissed under a plea agreement with the prosecutor.
The deal was intended to help the victims move forward with their lives and to avoid a long trial, the prosecutor had said.
But in court Wednesday, the teenage boy who fathered Whitehurst’s baby daughter called the teacher a “predator,” saying she should have been put in prison for life. He said Whitehurst faced “minimal consequences for stomach-churning behavior.”
The teen’s family had been previously notified of the plea deal and did not protest, San Bernardino Count Deputy District Attorney Melissa Rodriguez told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday. The two other victims did not want to participate or see Whitehurst charged, and prosecutors had to “balance” the victims’ desires, Rodriguez said.
Whitehurst had agreed to lifetime registration as a sex offender, counseling and five years of probation.
She’s ashamed and has “mostly destructive feelings,” her attorney told reporters after the hearing.
“She’s sitting in out county jail and she doesn’t fit in very well,” attorney James Gass said.
If convicted on all original counts, Whitehurst would have faced up to 29 years in prison, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office had said.
A judge approved the agreement, but told Whitehurst “it’s easy to understand why some think that you should go to state prison right now.”
An attorney for the boy who fathered the child with Whitehurst said the “shocking” sentence was “very short,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Whitehurst received a one-year sentence because she is a woman, attorney Heather Cullen told The Times.
She described the sentence as “a slap in the face to the victims.”
The case became public July 3, when Redlands police announced Whitehurst’s arrest, saying the Citrus Valley High School teacher had a sexual relationship with a student that had lasted nearly a year.
Whitehurst had recently given birth to a child fathered by the 17-year-old student, police said at the time. Court documents showed that both Whitehurst and the boy admitted the relationship to a detective. The boy attended the birth of the couple’s baby girl, according to court documents.
Officials in the Redlands Unified School District had in May questioned Whitehurst and the boy about their relationship, a detective’s affidavit stated, but police were not involved until the boy’s mother complained to the district.
After the arrest was announced, one other victim came forward, telling news media he had had a sexual relationship with Whitehurst several years earlier, when he had been a student at Redlands High School.
Another teen boy also came to authorities with stories of an sexual relationship with Whitehurst. He was a 14-year-old freshman when the relationship began, police said in announcing the two additional victims.
The boy who fathered Whitehurst’s baby had gotten unwanted attention after the case was announced, his attorney Cullen had said. Those comments were echoed in the courtroom Wednesday, according to the Redlands Daily Facts, which reported that the victim’s mother said the boy had been bullied.
Charges against Whitehurst related to all three victims.
The baby will remain with Whitehurst’s parents.