A West Texas federal judge sentenced a male high school teacher to serve 10 years in prison for luring a 17-year-old female student into a sexual relationship using the social media app Snapchat. In the courtroom, however, the victim begged the judge to pardon her former paramour.
Judge Sam Cummings handed down the decade-long sentence on Friday to former Slaton Independent School District high school teacher and coach Dustin Ray Leonard, 28. The teen victim dubbed “Jane Doe” pleaded with the court to absolve the teacher of the crime, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. During the hearing, Jane Doe claimed she pursued the illicit relationship with Leonard even after he told her he wanted to wait.
“I consented to participate in the sexual relationship, and I initiated the relationship,” said Jane Doe who will graduate from high school in December.
Additionally, Leonard’s defense attorney David Sloan objected to his client’s lengthy prison sentence, arguing that a finding in the sentencing report indicated Leonard exercised undue influence over Jane Doe when the relationship became sexual. Sloan believed the 10 year federal prison sentence should be the maximum guideline range, according to the Avalanche-Journal.
Cummings overruled the lawyer’s objection and ordered Leonard to serve 10 years in federal prison. KLBK reported the convicted teacher also will serve 10 years of supervised release after completing his sentence. He must register as a sex offender for 25 years.
Leonard was Jane Doe’s teacher when she was 16 years old. Then, their relationship was nonsexual. The dalliance took place once she was in 11th grade and 17, the age of consent in Texas. However, federal law recognizes anyone younger than 18 years old as a minor. Often, this type of case results in the state felony charge of improper relationship between an educator and a student since Texas law prohibits teacher-student sexual misconduct. Because Leonard accessed the Internet to contact Jane Doe, authorities could file federal charges against him.
Despite Jane Doe’s 11th hour emotional appeal, Leonard pleaded guilty to one federal count of enticement of a minor back in July. He confessed to using Snapchat over his smartphone to coax the teen into having sex with him. He admitted that he and Jane Doe were involved sexually since January 2018.
Leonard teacher taught and coached athletics in the school district from July 16, 2016, until his May 18, 2018 when he resigned. In previous court documents, Leonard said he “intended to divorce his wife and continue the relationship with Doe.”
Authorities arrested Leonard on May 22 and he remained at the Lubbock County Detention Center while awaiting his sentencing date. Numerous local, state, and federal agencies investigated this case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.