INDIANAPOLIS -- Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry fired back at criticism following a no-prison sentence for a former school counselor accused of having sex with students.
Shana Taylor reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in which she will serve six years on home detention, and will not have to register as a sex offender.
“I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate at all about the resolution in this case,” said Curry. “It is not a lenient sentence given our experience in Marion County courts. We practice it every day, and we know what’s realistic in terms of a potential sentence.”
Critics have questioned why prosecutors reached a no-prison plea agreement when it appeared they had ample evidence including text messages, Facebook messages and witness testimony.
“We have to look at what’s realistic in terms of sentence and conviction,” said Curry.
As part of the plea, Taylor admitted to sending two students photos of her nude genitals, however, she did not admit to having sex with students.
People have blasted the decision on social media, and state lawmakers have also joined the backlash.
State Senator Jim Merritt, a Republican, said the sentence “sends a terrible message that you can harm our kids and avoid prison time.”
Wednesday, Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis) called the plea agreement a “slap on the wrist.”
Curry, also a Democrat, fired back at critics, saying they’re responding to “incomplete” press reports.
“Never once have any of them called to talk to us about the circumstances that would lead us to any given resolution,” said Curry. “The criminal code was revised two years ago, and the message from the legislature is that they want to reduce the population at the Indiana Department of Correction.”
Taylor pleaded guilty to three counts of dissemination of material harmful to minors. While felonies, they are not on the list of offenses that require you to register as a sex offender.
However, had she been convicted on any of the nine child seduction charges she faced, she would have to register as a sex offender.
Curry said it was cut and dry that Taylor sent the graphic photos to the teens, however, proving the former counselor had sex with the students was more difficult.
“It’s the testimony of he-said she-said,” said Curry. “More importantly, it would require the victims to come in and talk about embarrassing things.”
In court documents, prosecutors said Taylor had sex with one of the 16-year old students on at least 20 different occasions, including in her IPS counselor office at Longfellow High School.
Taylor also engaged in sexual acts with two underage students at the same time, prosecutors said in the probable cause affidavit filed in March 2016.
Curry said the victims and their families were fine with the resolution of the case because it avoided subjecting them to further trauma.
“That’s another factor that we consider when reaching a resolution,” said Curry.
Taylor will forfeit her teacher’s license as part of the plea agreement, which is one of the reason’s Curry does not feel the public’s safety is in jeopardy.
“This situation arose because of the position that she was in, and she won’t be in that setting anymore,” said Curry.
Curry also pointed out prosecutors took into account Taylor’s lack of criminal history when determining the plea agreement.
Some have argued Taylor would have been treated differently, had she been a man.
Curry said gender has nothing to do with their decision making.
“I don’t think gender plays into that, I really don’t,” said Curry.
He said comparisons with Kyle Cox of Park Tudor are inaccurate because that was a federal child pornography case, and the Taylor case did not involve any images of children.
Cox was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
“We are in these courts every day and we know what’s realistic, and this was an entirely appropriate sentence,” said Curry.