MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — Declaring her a sex offender who had “created an inappropriate environment not only for the victim, but for many middle school girls,” Judge Clare Maier sentenced a former Moraga middle school teacher and coach to eight years in state prison Wednesday.
Julie Gay Correa, 43, pleaded no contest in October to one felony count of sexual penetration under duress and three felony counts of sexually abusing a child aged 14 or 15 years old, prosecutor Geoffrey Lauter said.
Maier also ordered the former teacher and coach to pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to the victim, now 29-year-old Kristen Cunnane of Walnut Creek. Cunnane has chosen to be identified.
Correa, a Utah resident and mother of two young boys, is also required to register as a sex offender and will be placed on parole for up to ten years following her release from prison.
“It is the teacher’s responsibility… to protect and to shield students at all costs from any inappropriate connection,” Maier said before handing down the sentence. “Ms. Correa breached that promise.”
Cunnane reported the abuse in 2010, about a decade after it ended, after she started having frequent flashbacks of the molestation and suffering from severe anxiety and depression, she said.
“Saying something and asking for help is what I knew I had to do in order to heal,” she said today in a courtroom filled with her friends and family as well as Correa’s friends and family.
In an emotional statement Wednesday, the victim told the court how she first met Correa—a popular teacher and girls’ sports coach—as an 11-year-old on her first day of sixth grade.
“I would come to respect her…more than any other adult,” she recalled. “I wanted to be just like her,” Cunnane said.
During her time at the school, Cunnane said Correa manipulated her admiration for the teacher twice her age.
The two spent more and more time together outside class, whether during lunchtime chats or one-on-one Slurpee runs, Cunnane said.
“She acted more like a peer than a teacher,” she recalled.
When she graduated middle school, Correa gave Cunnane a card and a watch, she said.
At 14, the teacher she trusted kissed her for the first time, leading to a four-year pattern of abuse that divided Cunnane’s identity as both “an accomplished Moraga teen and a terrified sex slave”, and has since caused her to suffer from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she said.
Correa repeatedly raped her former student, at her Walnut Creek apartment, in her car, and at Cunnane’s home, where she would sometimes hide in the teen’s bedroom closet or under her bed, waiting for her parents to fall asleep.
Cunnane said Correa threatened to harm herself if she ever left her and told the teen that she would lose her friends if they thought she was a lesbian.
Shortly before turning 18, Cunnane began avoiding Correa’s calls and threatened to report the abuse if the teacher continued to pursue her.
Though she said Correa did contact her after she enrolled at UCLA, the two didn’t speak again until 2010, when detectives said Cunnane would need to call her former teacher to build more evidence for a sexual assault case, she said.
During those calls and later, in court, Correa admitted to the abuse, referring to her “past connection” with Cunnane.
On Monday, Correa made a tearful statement to the court.
“It was never, never my intention to hurt you – I cared deeply for you,” Correa said, addressing Cunnane. “At some point, I began to view you as a peer instead of the teenage girl you were…this was an error in my thinking.”
On Wednesday, a bailiff led Correa – wearing a dark green jumpsuit – away in handcuffs before remanding her to police custody.
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