Former Tustin High School personal trainer, Hope Ashley Jacoby, 24, was today sentenced to three years of informal probation and 240 hours of community service, after pleading guilty to four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and three counts of oral copulation with a minor.
Jacoby admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old male student in her car and at her home on several different occasions throughout 2008.
School officials learned of the relationship when pictures of Jacoby were found on the student's phone.
The prosecution, led by Deputy District Attorney Nikki Buracchio, asked Judge Gregory W. Jones for a more substantial punishment considering the position of trust Jacoby held as a trainer at the school, before handing out the sentence.
But Judge Jones ruled against the DA's office wishes.
All of Jacoby's offenses are considered felonies, but were reduced to misdemeanors on account of what Judge Jones considered "a totally consensual relationship." Judge Jones described the student as a "willing participant" and "somewhat enthusiastic" about his relationship with the defendant. He also noted that the student "engaged in deception" in an effort to have the relationship continue for as long as it did.
The student was permitted an opportunity to make a victim-impact statement at the hearing today, but did not make an appearance in court.
Jones also noted that in 34 states, the age of consent is 16. He said the defendant did break the law in California, where the age of consent is 18, but would consider his own behavior to be derelict if he did not take into consideration all factors, including what he called the insignificant age gap, and the ability for 16-year-olds to be tried as adults when they commit felonies in some cases.
The Orange County District Attorney's office has come out with a strong stance against these types of crimes. They believe women and men should receive equal punishment and that Jacoby got off easy.
"Women expect to be treated equally and expect equal rights, and we believe that if you perpetrate the crime, you should do the time," said Susan Kang Schroeder, the public affairs counsel for the DA's office. "Jacoby and her lawyers obviously worked out some kind of deal with the court to have these charges reduced to misdemeanors."
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Schroeder said the DA's office has seen cases where the perpetrator is a male in his early twenties and the victim 16 or 17 years of age, and the sentencing is much tougher.
Schroeder, who has advocated her office's position on this issue on Oprah, said her biggest concerns is that parents be able send their children to school without fear of having them corrupted by people in positions of trust.
"This is a case involving a position of trust where the defendant was 23 years old and in a different place in life than [the student], who was 17," Schroeder said. "There is a huge age difference between a 23-year-old and a 17-year-old in the amount of sophistication."
"Everyone on this planet, including Hope Jacoby, knew what she did was illegal," Schroeder said. "The law is the law, and it doesn't matter what the law is in other states or other countries, it is designed to protect minors from these types of situations."