A former physical education teacher charged with having sex with a 13-year-old student went to jail for nine months Thursday in a plea deal that prohibits her from getting any financial benefit from the case.
Pamela Rogers Turner, 28, entered a no contest plea that allowed her to avoid a scheduled November trial on multiple charges of sexual battery and statutory rape.
She became tongue-tied trying to enter her plea after hearing the prosecutor read details of the sexual encounters with the boy that began last November and went on for three months, including one that occurred in the school gym, the Southern Standard newspaper reported.
"I can't even talk," she told Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley.
Turner was arrested in February and freed on a $50,000 bond after investigators discovered the relationship, and an indictment charged her with 15 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and 13 counts of statutory rape.
Before resigning, Turner taught physical education and coached girls basketball two years at Centertown Elementary, a school teaching children from ages 5 through 14, about 65 miles southeast of Nashville.
She was a former college homecoming queen and basketball player who once appeared as a bikini-clad promoter for a professional wrestling match. The sheriff once described her as "absolutely gorgeous."
Turner arrived at the courthouse more than an hour before the hearing and made no comment other than responses during the proceedings. It was her first court appearance to answer the charges, reports Lyra Manning of CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF TV.
"It's an agreement that she can live with. It's an agreement that gives her, I think, some real control over her future," Strianse said to reporters, including Manning.
After she finishes her time in the Warren County jail, she will be on supervised probation for the rest of an eight-year suspended sentence. The judge also ordered Turner to surrender her teaching certificate and said she would be registered as a child sex offender.
The sentence prohibits her from profiting from the case and does not allow interviews.
The mother of the teenager in the case previously described Turner as a family friend and said she hoped there would not be a trial. District Attorney Dale Potter said Thursday that was part of the reason for the plea agreement.
Potter has said Turner lived at the boy's house "for a brief period of time when she was moving from residence to residence."
He said in court that, ideally, the penalty should be stiffer but, "The victim's family ... their interest was, if we could settle this without going to trial, that's what they preferred. And we feel like this is an acceptable settlement."
So does the family, Potter told Tracy Smith on The Early Show Friday.
Part of the agreement forbids Turner from having any contact with the boy or his family, Manning adds.
Potter told Smith that Turner never admitted to anyone on the prosecution side that she'd done anything wrong.
Asked if the no contest plea amounts to an admission of guilt, Potter responded, "It depends on how you look at it. In our view, a no contest plea is the same thing as a guilty plea. From a defense perspective, sometimes they say that's not an admission, it's just that the state could have convinced a jury to convict her."
Potter says the provision keeping Turner from making money off the case was important, since "especially considering that the victim would never get anything out of this case."