Because former Bountiful Junior High teacher Linda Nef voluntarily confessed to her affair with a 13-year-old student (at the time), and because she took a plea deal, saving the state the cost of a full-blown jury trial, it was widely believed that she would get a light sentence. Some even hinted at probation only.
Uh-uh. Her case was heard by a hardball judge who said he had no choice. On July 21st, 2009, Judge Rodney Page sentenced Linda Nef to three years to life in prison for having sex with one of her former students. Nef immediately broke down and was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Media stories from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and KSL Channel 5. KSL news video embedded below:
In lengthy remarks before he imposed the sentence, Page said he wished the responsibility to sentence her rested with someone else. "I haven't slept well in thinking about this case and knowing that from the date the defendant entered her plea, it would be my responsibility to impose sentence," Page said.
While he said it was commendable that Nef came forward and confessed her wrongdoing with the boy, he said there were hundreds if not thousands of victims besides this particular boy who have been hurt by her actions. "The greater victim in this might be our society as a whole," Page said. "This undermines our faith, beliefs and confidence in institutions that create the foundation of freedoms by which we live — and that is our schools".
"In our society, we esteem our teachers to be among the most honorable people, although sometimes we wouldn't think that by the way we try to pay them and other things. We entrust them with the most important commodity we have in our society and that is our children," Page added.
Nef, who is married and the mother of three, apologized publicly for the harm she had done to the boy and for her completely selfish actions. Her husband has commendably stuck with her; he and Nef's extended family filled three rows in the courtroom in support of her.
The case first broke back in March 2009. Nef was a teacher at Bountiful Jr. High, and had entered a sexual relationship with the boy from October 2007 to December 2008. She regained her senses and broke off the relationship, then she found out that the boy had entered another sexual relationship with a different teacher, Valynne Bowers. Nef tipped off school authorities, who began an investigation and notified police. Nef cooperated with police throughout the investigation, but was initially charged with rape and forcible sodomy, which are first-degree felonies. In June, Nef pleaded guilty in June to a reduced charge of attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony, as part of a plea bargain.
Psychological examinations prior to the trial indicated that Nef posed minimal risk to the community or to re-offend, and that she is not a pedophile. She could be helped with counseling and treatment, and she assisted police in solving this case. But the judge decided that prison time was appropriate to send a message that not only would this behavior not be tolerated, but that female offenders would be treated just as sternly as male offenders.
Meanwhile, the other teacher involved, Valynne Bowers, is still charged with rape and forcible sodomy, first-degree felonies, in connection with sexual activity with the boy when he was 14. Plea negotiations for Bowers have fallen through primarily due to a dispute between Bowers and prosecutors over whether she occupied a position of special trust because she was the youth's former math teacher. A preliminary hearing has been set for August 28th in Bowers' case, which is pending before 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin. If convicted, Bowers could face 15 years to life.
Maybe Bowers ought to re-open those plea negotiations post-haste.