Lauren Hill, 27-year-old former teacher at St. Joseph High School, St. Joseph, Michigan, has been sentenced to a minimum of 48 months in prison.
Hill pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in May. Two counts of third-degree CSC were dismissed as part of the plea deal.
“The two charges to which she pled guilty involved using her position of authority to have sexual contact with a minor under the age of 16 years,” said Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic in a press release.
The victim was said to be just 15 years old when the relationship began. “During this time, the victim was looking for a mentor. Her family was going through a difficult time, and Miss Hill was there for her. And Miss Hill crossed the line and turned the relationship mentor/ mentee, into that of a sexual nature,” said Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Jacob Jenison. “This situation lasted from when the victim was going to be a sophomore in high school, all the way until the end of her senior year – for those reasons she could not complete her senior year with her classmates. It was supposed to be one of the best times of her life.”
“In most criminal cases, the victim’s loss can be made whole,” said Berrien County Judge Gary J. Bruce. “Stolen money can be replaced, injuries can heal, medical bills can be reimbursed, a broken window can be repaired. But the loss of the best four years of your life can never be gotten back.”
For her part, Hill fought off tears as she told the court she was sorry to cause so much “devastation.”
Hill said she had made decisions based on emotions and not common sense.
Hill was educated at Michigan State University where she played soccer. The judge called Hill’s support network of family and friends the strongest he had ever seen.
Hill’s defense attorney said his client was a bit “naïve” on the subject of punishment because she had never been in trouble before.
The victim was said to be in the courtroom, but did not speak at the sentencing hearing.
The judge encouraged Hill to continue her teaching career while behind bars, after learning she had worked as a volunteer for the Fresh Start program while in jail.