Albermarle County VA May 3 2017 A former Albemarle County teacher will spend two years behind bars after pleading guilty to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student.
Former Jack Jouett Middle School science teacher Amelia Tat was in Albemarle Circuit Court on Monday for a sentencing hearing. In January, Tat took a deal and pleaded guilty to two charges of carnal knowledge of a minor, while prosecutors dropped a third carnal knowledge charge and one count of taking indecent liberties with a child.
Tat was a teacher at Jack Jouett during the 2014-15 school year, and had just completed her first year as a science teacher at Nelson County High School when she was arrested last June.
At January’s plea hearing, prosecutor Darby Lowe said that while Tat was at Jack Jouett, she began communicating with one of her students on social media sites such as Instagram and Snapchat. In those communications, Tat confessed to the student that she had developed feelings for him and began asking him personal questions.
Tat eventually asked the boy to “stay late and help her” with something after class, at which time they had sexual intercourse. It is still not clear whether the encounter occurred in Tat’s classroom.
The student and Tat had sex again the following September, when Tat picked the victim up from a baseball tournament in Lynchburg and brought him back to her nearby apartment. Tat originally faced a carnal knowledge charge from Lynchburg authorities, but that charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement.
The relationship came to light some time later, when the victim’s mother found text messages from Tat on her son’s phone and realized there was “something going on” between them. On June 22, she reached out to police, who in turn arrested Tat on June 29.
At Monday’s court hearing, a psychologist testified that Tat’s 4-month-old baby would suffer if Tat were to be incarcerated at such a crucial time in the child’s development. The defense stated that while Solomon Tat — the child’s father and Tat’s husband — would be the child’s primary caretaker, his work schedule would require the child to be cared for by her grandparents and other relatives for substantial spans of time.
The psychologist told Higgins that, speaking purely for the wellbeing of the child, Tat’s incarceration would “constitute a trauma” and disrupt the developing relationship between mother and child. Following the testimony, defense attorney Andre Hakes gave the court a selection of dozens of letters penned by friends and family members on Tat’s behalf.
Ahead of her final arguments, Lowe made an unexpected announcement: the victim in the case decided at the last minute to break his silence and testify before Higgins. Taking the stand, the boy told Higgins that he had changed his mind about speaking on the eight-month relationship that had forced him to “betray” his mother and lie to his family.
The victim testified that he now experiences anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the relationship, and that he has “lost many firsts that [he] will never get back.” He further acknowledged that while Tat may now have a young child, he was only an adolescent when she engaged in a relationship with him.
“She isn’t the only child that comes into play in this case,” the victim said.
Ahead of sentencing, Hakes asked that Tat be allowed to serve her sentence from home so that she could take care of her baby, noting that while “what happened to [the victim] in this case is not fair,” Tat’s baby would suffer without the care of its mother.
“It is not good for society for the baby to grow up that way,” Hakes said.
In response, Lowe told the court that regardless of her status as a new mother, Tat’s punishment should be aimed at rectifying the damage done to the victim and to society. She noted that many new mothers have gone before the court and, without the same resources or finances, had not received special treatment.
Higgins ultimately sentenced Tat to five years in prison on each charge for a 10-year total sentence, but suspended eight years of that. Tat will now report back in December to serve her two-year active sentence. She also will have to pay $175 in restitution, as well as court costs related to her adjudication.
Higgins further ordered that Tat not be allowed unsupervised contact with any minors, excepting her daughter and stepdaughter. She also must undergo specialized therapy, which will be paid for by her family.
Tat faced a maximum sentence of 20 years on the two charges.
Neither Lowe nor Hakes wished to comment on the case Monday evening.