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ST. GEORGE - A tearful former Hurricane High teacher and track coach was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in jail for having sex with a 17-year-old male student.
"I want to apologize to all I have hurt, in my family and his [victim's family]," Cris Lynn Morris said in 5th District Court. "I know I made a terrible mistake and want to do what's needed now to move forward with our lives."
Judge G. Rand Beacham sentenced the 30-year-old woman - who had pleaded guilty to three third-degree felony counts of unlawful sexual misconduct as part of a deal with prosecutors - to three years' probation and 30 days in Washington County's Purgatory Correctional Facility.
She also was fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $2,500 to a victim-restitution fund and register as a sex offender. A prison term was stayed.
Morris, who became a teacher at the high school in 2004, began texting the then-17-year-old victim in the summer of 2007 after he "approached her with admiration," Beacham said in recounting what led up to the crimes.
The teen and Morris also met in her classroom, kissed and had sex at least three times last October at her house.
"Instead of taking measures into account, as an adult, she reciprocated and allowed the approach to continue," Beacham said. "That crossed the line into an inappropriate relationship."
Morris' attorney, Daniel McKay, urged the judge not to impose the 180-day jail term recommended in a presentence report, pointing to a dozen letters from family, friends and colleagues attesting to his client's good character.
McKay noted Morris has a steady job as a bookkeeper and three young children. He also mentioned a letter from the victim sent to the court.
The victim states that one of his focal points is allowing the parties to move on and that jail should not be a compelling focus for the court," McKay said.
Prosecutor Ryan Shaum said the case was tough on all the parties.
"Nobody is happy about getting bogged down in this," Shaum said. "All things considered, the judge handed down an appropriate sentence."