A former Texas teacher sentenced by a jury last week to serve 110 years in prison for sexual misconduct with two teenage high school students headed back to court to face a judge’s final decision on his fate.
Ector County 70th District Judge Denn Whalen formally sentenced Jay Dee Burns to 60 years in prison on Wednesday, May 4, nearly slashing the prison sentence in half. The judge said he would stack three of Burns’ sexual assault of a child sentences and indecency with a child sentence. The other charges would run concurrent. The court credited Burns, 45, with jail time already served. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years, according to the Odessa American.
Previously, Breitbart Texas reported an Ector County jury sent an even stronger message about improper educator and student relationships by sentencing the former Permian High School teacher to 110 years behind bars after he pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of sexual misconduct with the two female students. Those charges broke down to four counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student, three counts of sexual assault of a child, one count of indecency with a child, and one count of stalking.
Before the judge Wednesday, Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said: “We appreciate the judge taking the time in making his decision,” adding: “This sends a strong message to the community that this will not be tolerated.”
The victims’ families gave impact statements towards the end of Wednesday’s hearing. First Assistant Ector County District Attorney Justin Cunningham read a letter from the mother of the then 18-year-old victim, who Burns allegedly cast aside for the even younger 16-year-old female student.
The older girl purportedly tried to commit suicide on March 31, 2015 by overdosing on a cocktail of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and Tylenol. While in the hospital, she admitted to a relationship with Burns after which Odessa police launched an investigation on the Ector County Independent School District teacher. Law enforcement officers arrested the high school studies teacher and academic decathlon coach but he bonded out of the Ector County Detention Center. Burns resigned from Permian High School last June.
“Jay Dee Burns, hate is a strong word but I hate you,” wrote the mother of the then 18-year-old high school girl in an impact statement delivered before Whalen at the end of Wednesday’s hearing, according to the the Odessa newspaper, which also reported the mother of the younger girl, then 16-years-old, stated Burns targeted younger women because he seemed incapable of maintaining a relationship with an adult woman.
“Good luck with your relationship with adult men in prison,” she said in her impact statement.
During the jury’s sentencing phase in late April, both teenage girls testified in court they had brief sexual encounters with Burns, relationships kindled over social media sites including Tumblir and the kinky fetish website FetLife. The inappropriate teacher and student relationships also included communications over encrypted phone apps Kik and Wickr, according to various reports. The girls knew each other, although they had separate relationships with Burns. The younger girl entered into a dominance-submissive contract with him.
On April 28, after deliberating several hours, the Ector County jury sentenced Burns to 10 years for each of the four counts of an improper relationship between an educator and student, 15 years on each of the three counts of sexual assault, 15 years on one count of indecency with a child, and 10 years on one count of stalking, a total of 110 years, according to Odessa NBC affiliate KWES 9.
During the course of the news coverage, estimates on Burns’ potential prison sentence ran as high as 170 years, based on the maximum time he could serve consecutively, to as little as probation since Burns had no prior felony convictions.
Defense attorney Michael Brown expressed disappointment with the judge’s decision to sentence Burns to 60 years behind bars, according to the Odessa newspaper. Brown said, “It’s my opinion that it (the evidence) really doesn’t matter very much.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.