A former Alabama high school teacher who previously argued that it was her constitutional right to have sex with two of her male students has been sentenced to state prison. Carrie Cabri Witt, 47, on Thursday was handed a 10-year sentence, in keeping with her plea arrangement and admitting to one count of having sex with a student. However, she will only spend 18 months behind bars, followed by another 18 months in a community corrections program. The rest of her sentence will be served on probation.
Witt will also be required to register as a sex offender. ”I’m ashamed. I don’t think I’ve ever been more ashamed of myself,’ Witt told the court on Thursday, offering a tearful apology for her actions. Before being forced to leave her job, Witt taught history, psychology and social studies, as well as coaching the varsity girls’ golf team and and junior varsity cheerleading at Decatur High School, when in March 2016 she was charged with having sexual contact with two students, who were 17 and 18, respectively, at the time of the encounters. Witt was arrested and charged by Morgan County prosecutors on March 21, 2016, for alleged violation of Code of Alabama §13A-6-81, “School Employee engaging in a sex act with a student under the age of 19 years” which is a class B felony, carrying a range of punishment from two years to twenty years in prison for each count. For the five years the legal battle has raged as Witt maintained that even as a teacher she had the right to have consensual sex with of persons of age, even if they were under the age stipulated by Alabama state laws for consensual sex with students. She also remained on paid administrative leave until she resigned nearly two years later, and after collecting $116,412 from the district.
One of Witt’s former students with whom she had had sex came to her defense, telling the judge that their relationship was consensual.
In late March, just hours before she was scheduled to go to trial, Witt pled guilty to one count of school employee engaging in a sex act with a student. The defendant entered a ‘blind plea’ with prosecutors without reaching a sentencing agreement, allowing them to seek up to 20 years in prison for her.
In exchange for her plea, Morgan County prosecutors agreed to drop a second charge against Witt, who was initially facing charges related to two different boys, ages 17 and 18. After her sentencing hearing, Witt looking somber and declined to answers reporters’ questions as she was led by officers to a van to be transported to state prison, thus bringing to a close a five-year legal saga that has drawn national attention. Robert Tuten, Witt’s attorney, told WAAY that his client has decided to not pursue a federal appeal because of the financial and emotional toll this case has taken on her.
In 2017, a judge dismissed the charges against Witt after her lawyers successfully argued that a 2010 law, that made it a felony for a school employee to have sex with a student under 19 years old, was unconstitutional. Witt claimed that she was in a consensual relationship with the students, and that she was only prosecuted for being a school employee, which violated her 14th Amendment right to privacy and equal protection. Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson said the court found the statute ‘unconstitutional’ and that there was no proof Witt used her position of authority to force the two students to have sex.
The judge noted that Alabama state law allows students to legally have sex at age 16, as long as someone doesn’t use their position of authority to obtain that consent. Prosecutors filed an appeal and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the ruling and reinstated the charges against Witt.
She was put on administrative leave with pay by Decatur High School and resigned in April 2018 after collecting more than $116,000 from the school district.