Teacher's aide sent to prison for sex with middle school students
WEST JORDAN — Andrea Billingsley's attorney asked a judge to allow her to spend Christmas with her two young boys, ages 14 and 17, before sending her to prison.
But 3rd District Judge Charlene Barlow said it had already been four years since the victims of the former teacher's aide, also two young boys, began their wait for justice.
"I recognize it's Christmas time, but I also recognize we need finality in this matter," the judge said. "They were middle school children. They were young men, young boys. Ms. Billingsley was the adult in the room, but she did not act like the adult in the room."
The judge ordered the prison commitment to begin immediately. Billingsley cried as her hands were cuffed behind her floral print dress.
Barlow ordered Billingsley, 35, to serve four five-years-to-life sentences in prison for rape and three counts of forcible sodomy, first-degree felonies. She was also ordered to serve three prison terms of one to 15 years in prison for three counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. All the sentences were ordered to be served concurrently.
Earlier, Billingsley said that as a mother herself, she empathized with the parents of her victims and asked the judge for a chance.
"I'm very sorry for all the pain and damage I've caused to so many people who have been impacted by my actions," she said. "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to admit to what I've done."
Billingsley was charged in connection with incidents in 2009 involving one teenager she supervised during in-school suspension, as well as other acts involving the same teen and another in a local park. The victims were 15 and 16 years old.
Billingsley had been working at West Jordan Middle School, 7550 S. Redwood Road, about 17 hours per week from August 2008 to May 2009. Her position was ultimately eliminated due to budget cuts at the school.
Police believe the sexual encounters started in May and continued after the school year was over and into July of 2009.
Billingsley was convicted by a jury on all seven of the charges, but days before she was to be sentenced in December of 2010, 3rd District Judge Robert Adkins overturned the jury's verdict. Adkins determined there had been errors at trial, including the omission of evidence about the victims' prior sexual knowledge and experience.
But the Utah Supreme Court determined in March that the exclusion of the victim's history "was proper and the other claimed errors and irregularities do not require reversal because they did not prejudice Ms. Billingsley." The court ordered that Adkins' order granting a new trial be reversed and that her convictions be reinstated.
Prosecutor Peter Leavitt pointed out that Billingsley adamantly denied for years that she had done anything wrong. He said she also "actively lied" to police, gave a "complete fabrication" when under oath and repeatedly tried to characterize her victims as liars.
"She did what anyone would have done, but then when all remedies were exhausted facing imminent prison sentence, she admitted some sexual conduct. Even now it's not the full truth," he said.
He reminded the judge of the activity that led to the charges.
"This started in in-school suspension, right there in the classroom," Leavitt said. "A school. A place parents send their kids thinking they're going to be safe, they're going to be all right."
One of the victim's mothers spoke to the judge and pleaded with her, through tears, to sentence Billingsley to at least three years in custody. She said the victims were teased in high school and have struggled in their relationships.
"It's one thing for them to make their own choices but to be placed in that position by an adult — I apologize, but to this day just the thought of it kills me," the mother said. "She has taken away years. She's doesn't know all the impacts it's done to my kids."
Defense attorney Tara Isaacson said her client has a steady job with a landscaping company, a supportive family and two children of whom she has sole custody. She said her client was hoping to take responsibility for what she has done.
"She recognizes her conduct does have an impact on those young men and will take responsibility for that and does wish she could change what she put these boys and their families through."
The judge said it was time Billingsley accept her punishment. "There is no justifying what she did," Barlow said.
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