Saturday, May 18, 2013
By Ann S. Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
ALFRED — A former special education teacher who was charged with having sex with a 15-year-old student avoided possible federal prosecution Thursday by pleading guilty to charges in the state's case against her.
Jessica Pomerleau, 37, of Limerick pleaded guilty in York County Superior Court in Alfred to two counts of gross sexual assault and two counts of aggravated unlawful furnishing of a scheduled drug.
Justice John O'Neil gave her a 12-year prison sentence, with five of those years suspended, and six years of probation. Pomerleau will have to register with the state as a sex offender for 10 years.
Pomerleau, who taught in Massabesic High School's alternative education program, had at least seven sexual encounters with the boy during the summer of 2011 and gave him marijuana and alcohol, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
The York County Sheriff's Office began investigating after the mother of another student reported a sexual relationship between Pomerleau and the teenager.
The York County District Attorney's Office and the sheriff's office alleged that one of the acts occurred in New Hampshire, said John Webb, Pomerleau's attorney.
For taking a minor across state lines for sex, Pomerleau would have faced federal prosecution and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, Webb said.
The penalty could have been increased by factors such as the defendant's supervisory role, as a teacher, and a victim deemed particularly vulnerable, he said.
"The federal prosecution is so draconian that it would be a horrible outcome for her," Webb said.
State prosecutors in Maine and federal prosecutors in New Hampshire agreed to Pomerleau's guilty plea Thursday, Webb said.
Calls to prosecutors in York County and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Hampshire were not returned Thursday.
York County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Solomon, a school resource officer, started investigating after another student's mother reported an inappropriate relationship between Pomerleau and the boy.
Solomon's affidavit in support of Pomerleau's arrest says the boy admitted to having sexual relations with Pomerleau, and authorities tracked down a cellphone that the boy said he had left in Pomerleau's car.
The boy said Pomerleau left the phone in a portable toilet for him to retrieve, according to the document, but an employee of the toilet company found it first.
The document says investigators found a "Jess" in the phone's directory and messages from "Jess" that referred to sexual activity between them. It says investigators connected the phone of "Jess" with a Verizon bill sent to Pomerleau's husband.
York County Sheriff Maurice Ouellette said, "I'm thankful RSU 57 has a school resource officer, because when the information came available he was the first that had it and responded to it and investigated it thoroughly with other members of my agency."
Regional School Unit 57, covering Alfred, Limerick, Lyman, Newfield, Shapleigh and Waterboro, hired Pomerleau as an educational technician in 2007. She became a special education teacher the next year.
Pomerleau was in the high school's Success Program, an alternative program in which about one-third of the students are special education students. The program's teachers, whether in special education or regular education, work with all of the students.
RSU 57 officials put Pomerleau on paid administrative leave on Sept. 29, when they learned of the allegations against her. The school board terminated its contract with Pomerleau on Feb. 1, according to Superintendent John Davis.
Pomerleau was taken into custody at the end of Thursday's brief court proceeding. She was taken to the York County Jail, where she declined a request for an interview.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: