AUGUSTA — A woman who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old student from a Fairfield school for at-risk youths, where she was employed as a direct care worker, was sentenced Monday to serve at least 18 months in prison.

The sentencing followed emotional testimony during which she apologized. 

Tia Chris-Ann Rousseau listens Monday as she is sentenced at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta to five years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended, for one count of gross sexual assault. The Waterville woman, 31, who previously worked at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield as a direct care worker, must also register as a sex offender after her conviction for engaging in a sexual act with a 15-year-old boy who was enrolled at the school for at-risk youths.

Tia Chris-Ann Rousseau, 31, sexually assaulted the teenage boy Oct. 27, 2018, at a Waterville hotel.

Back at Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield, where the boy was a student and Rousseau worked, the 15-year-old was reported missing, prompting police and wardens to search overnight for him.

Rousseau left him at the hotel and he was later found by police at Walmart in Waterville. The boy was found 24 hours after he had been reported missing, according to police.

Rousseau first denied any involvement in the boy’s going missing, and offered two different, untrue stories to police. She later confessed she had picked him up in her car and they later drove to the Best Western Hotel in Waterville.

Rousseau described the incident as consensual sexual intercourse — even though minors cannot legally consent to sex with an adult — before she left him there for the rest of the night, according to prosecutor Michael Madigan, an assistant district attorney.

In court Monday, a tearful Rousseau, who has a 12-year-old daughter, told Justice William Stokes she was sorry for what she had done and said she had already suffered major consequences.

Multiple people submitted letters of support describing her as a good person and hard worker who has overcome a drug addiction and two abusive relationships to become a good mother and provider.

Stokes said it was thus hard for him to understand why Rousseau could have taken the actions she did while she was in a supervisory position over the boy at the school for students with behavioral problems, and who was thus vulnerable, considering everything she put at risk by doing so.

Stokes said as he considered her sentence, “I just wanted to scream: ‘Look what you’ve lost. And look what you will continue to lose for the rest of your life.'”

Tia Chris-Ann Rousseau listens Monday as she is sentenced at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta to five years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended, for one count of gross sexual assault. The Waterville woman, 31, who previously worked at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield as a direct care worker, must also register as a sex offender after her conviction for engaging in a sexual act with a 15-year-old boy who was enrolled at the school for at-risk youths.

“You were dealing with a very vulnerable and fragile individual,” Stokes told her. “It’s mystifying you didn’t realize you were crossing a very serious line and you took the next step. What did you put at risk that evening? Everything. You put everything at risk.”

Rousseau, who was taken into custody to begin serving her sentence following the Monday hearing, was sentenced to five years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended, and two years of probation.

Stokes also imposed probation conditions that she undergo sex offender counseling and not have contact with any boys younger than 16 years old.

She will be on the state’s sex offender registry for 25 years.

Rob Moody, president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley, said the nonprofit organization worked with law enforcement from the start of the incident, took it very seriously and acted quickly.

The 15-year-old boy was enrolled in the Roundel Residential program at Good Will-Hinckley, which serves young people ages 12 to 21 who are in crisis, in a community-style, home setting with case management services, youth-centered counseling and academic programming.

“We always want to do what is best for the kids. Safety is our number-one concern,” Moody said Monday. “We took it very seriously and acted quickly. It was something we couldn’t predict.”

Moody previously confirmed Rousseau had worked for Good Will-Hinckley from July 9, 2018, to Oct. 30, 2018, when she was terminated from the job after having been suspended a day earlier.

Lisa Whittier, Rousseau’s lawyer, said her client had taken responsibility for the crime, which she said was a terrible mistake with which she will live for the rest of her life.

Whittier said Rousseau had never spent time in jail or prison, and that people convicted of sex crimes tend to have rougher times behind bars than other convicts. Whittier had sought a sentence with all but one year suspended.

Rousseau’s mother, Melody Rousseau, said through tears Monday her daughter took two jobs to put food on the table for her own daughter, Melody Rousseau’s granddaughter. She said she has taken custody of her granddaughter, a moment she said was far worse for Tia than any punishment the courts could impose.

“She’s done counseling. She’s done everything you’ve asked her to do. She’s gotten a new job, which was hard. She moved. Her whole life has been flipped around,” Melody Rousseau said.

“I’m just asking you, please take her family into consideration. Her daughter turns 13 this year, and she’s never been without her mother. Please know her sentence has already been imposed, because she’s lost everything she had.”

The victim’s grandmother, who at the time of the crime had custody of him, sent a letter to the court that Stokes said he read prior to sentencing. The judge said little was known about the impact of the crime on the boy, in large part because he no longer attends Good Will-Hinckley and has been returned to the custody of his father.

Madigan, the assistant district attorney, said Rousseau, a direct care worker to residential students, had been warned by a supervisor at the school she was spending too much time in close physical proximity to the victim. That warning reportedly came five days before the incident.

After the allegations came out, the supervisor and another student reported observing Rousseau and her victim, prior to the Oct. 27, 2018, incident, having physical contact.

Madigan said Rousseau does not have a significant criminal history, with a 2011 conviction for theft, a bail violation and multiple convictions for operating after suspension.

He sought a sentence that would send Rousseau to prison for three years, noting she did not disclose the whereabouts of the victim when she was questioned by police who were searching for him, even though she had left him at the hotel room where the assault took place.

Madigan said what happened between Rousseau and the victim would have been a crime just because of his young age, but the circumstances were aggravated by the fact she held a supervisory position of power over him.

“A sentence of less than three years would significantly reduce the gravity of this offense,” Madigan argued. “This appears to be a relationship that developed once she started working at the facility and continued, to an even greater degree, even after she was warned about the conduct. It didn’t get better. It went exactly where the law says it could not go.”

Stokes said it was hard to settle on a sentence for Rousseau, who pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to a charge of gross sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The judge said he sought to balance a desire to enact a sentence that would serve as a deterrent to others and reflect the gravity of the crime, while also allowing Rousseau to return to her daughter and be a productive member of society.

“You did make a horrible mistake and that’s what you’re being sentenced for,” he said. “But I want you to get back on your feet. This sentence is designed for that purpose.”


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