BARRE, Vt. (AP) – She was a 14-year-old eighth grader with a schoolgirl crush.

He was an 18-year-old college freshman working part-time as a substitute teacher at Harwood Union High School.

They met online: She saw his profile on MySpace.com, and sent an e-mail to him because – as she told police later – she had a “crush” on him and he didn’t know it.

What happened next left both in ruins. He saw her outside school one night last April, after her grandfather dropped her off to go see a school play, brought her to his car and sexually assaulted her.

On Friday, Jeremy Mullins, 19, of South Duxbury, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and five years deferred, capping a case that divided their community and ultimately led the girl – who endured criticism from his supporters – to change schools.

“She’s going to suffer from the continued trauma from this for many years to come,” said Michael Sweeney, a probation officer who conducted Mullins’ pre-sentencing investigation and testified at the sentencing.

Mullins, who had no prior record, was by all accounts a model student. The son of two Harwood staff members, he was an honor roll student, National Honor Society member and former Eagle Scout who earned a scholarship to St. Michael’s College.

As a freshman, he worked parts of two vacations substituting at Harwood.

Under Vermont law, the only requirements for substitute teachers are a high school degree and a criminal background check. There is no age minimum, although local school boards can add requirements.

Mullins, who had taught a “Tech Ed” class the girl attended, didn’t know her when she initially reached out to him with an e-mail entitled “cutiepie” in which she wrote: “hey Jeremy! what up?”

He replied by asking her how she knew him, and when she told him Harwood, he told her he was up for meeting new people all the time, according to affidavit filed by Vermont State Police Trooper Robert Snetsinger.

Things escalated. In one e-mail, he told her: “Yes, i will be in school tomorrow and im sorry that my myspace hasn’t been working so i cant reply but i’d definitely love to hang out! and maybe in dark places or alone at least! if you’d like??”

Later, he sent her a “If We Had Sex Game” sex survey in which he asked her to respond to 30 questions about sexual preferences and behavior, according to Snetsinger. The attack occurred April 11, 2007, in his car, after which they returned to the school together and they sat next to each other, watching the play.

Police were called by the victim’s grandmother.

Once the charge was publicized, there was backlash in the school community against the victim, according to Sweeney, who said people blamed her for what happened.

“People jumped on my side of the fence,” said Mullins.

He pleaded guilty in November to felony sexual assault and engaging in prohibited acts, a misdemeanor.

Under the plea agreement, he got a five-year jail term on the sexual assault count, but it was deferred. If he successfully completes sex offender counseling, it will be expunged from his record. Judge Patricia Zimmerman sentenced him to up to 12 months on the misdemeanor, with all but 90 days suspended.

Washington County State’s Attorney Tom Kelly said the plea struck the right balance. The victim – who didn’t attend the sentencing – wanted some jail time as part of it.

“This wasn’t just a mistake,” said Zimmerman. “This was a position of trust that was violated.”

AP-ES-04-18-08 1604EDT


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