Teacher Emily M. Rogers was only 22 years old when she began an affair with an 18-year-old female student that stretched from late 2014 to early 2015. The social studies teacher was arrested in April 2015 and charged with an improper relationship between an educator and a student.
On Wednesday morning, Rogers appeared in a New Braunfels, Texas, courtroom where she was found guilty on two counts. In a brief deliberation, the jury of six men and six women spent only an hour before returning unanimous verdicts. Each charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, the San Antonio Express-News reports. But, in Thursday’s sentencing, the jury decided to let the former educator off without any jail time. Instead, she received ten years probation and a fine of $5,000.
In announcing their punishment, the jury told Rogers that she is being “granted a second chance,” courtroom observers told the Express-News.
The first evidence was introduced Monday by the state and chronicled the numerous sexual encounters between Rogers and the student. Their rendezvouses occurred over several months in cars, at school and at their parents’ homes. On Tuesday, the victim took the stand and outlined the wild ride that she and her former teacher took together — saying that they went to bars and did drugs as a couple. She admitted to snorting cocaine at Rogers’s home and taking Xanax with her at school, saying that their relationship continued even after the educator’s arrest on April 9, 2015. But, she also claimed that she was in love with Rogers. The disgraced teacher never testified in the trial.
Defense attorney John Kuntz called no witnesses, instead focusing on the student’s testimony. He drew attention to inconsistencies in the victim’s story and posited that the young woman came onto her teacher and that Rogers’s initial response was “this can never happen.” In his closing argument, he told the jury that “Emily is not a bad person. She just made a terrible, terrible decision.”
Prosecutor Daniel Palmitier urged the jury to find harsh justice, pushing back on Kuntz’s attempts to skew the victim’s testimony by declaring “within months of getting the job, she’s smoking weed and having sex with a student.” In his closing testimony, he noted, “This is something that is happening all too often, and people need to be held accountable for it.”
Though she never took the stand, Emily Rogers sat with her attorney and was overcome with emotion at some points, weeping when her mother testified that she knew about the relationship with the student. Carole Rogers said that after her daughter was arrested, she had a breakdown that led to a week-long stint in a mental hospital. She also claimed that Emily became suicidal, and in a plea for probation, told the jury, “In my opinion, prison would break her.”
Smithson Valley High School, where Rogers met the student, recently drew attention in May when three teachers were forced to resign after allegations arose that they misbehaved after the school’s prom. The exact details of that investigation are still somewhat murky, but MySanAntonio.com reports that the reports included “unprofessional conduct involving the possession of alcohol.”