A former Redlands high school teacher convicted of having sex with three of her students got off easy because she is a woman, an attorney for one of the victims said.
Laura Elizabeth Whitehurst, 28, pleaded guilty to engaging in sex acts with three boys and was sentenced to one year in jail this week. She had a baby with one of the boys this summer.
She admitted guilt to four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and two of oral copulation of a person under 18.
"This is a very short sentence for such crimes," said attorney Heather Cullen, whose firm represents the family of the boy who fathered a child with Whitehurst. "It's shocking anyone would face so little time for abusing minors. This is definitely being treated differently because they are boys and she is a woman."
She described the sentence as "a slap in the face to the victims."
The boy who fathered Whitehurst's baby said the relationship lasted more than a year. Redlands detectives had the boy call the AP English teacher and listened in so they could gather more evidence that she had sex with the minor repeatedly.
Later, during questioning by detectives, Whitehurst admitted having sex with the boy numerous times, police said. She told investigators they began having sex at her apartment in 2012 after a trip to Disneyland.
The sexual relationship continued after she became pregnant in September 2012, and the boy was present when she gave birth to the child on June 18, according to the search warrant.
In addition to jail, Whitehurst must serve five years’ probation, undergo counseling and register as a sex offender for life. She will serve her time in county jail but could be sent to state prison if she violates the terms of her probation, San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Melissa Rodriguez said.
Legal experts say far longer sentences are typically handed out for educators convicted of sex crimes with students. Dmitry Gorin, a former Los Angeles County sex crimes prosecutor and defense attorney, said two years or more in prison is typical.
But, he added, prosecutors may have considered mitigating information about her background, mental health and the victims' positions.
Whitehurst's attorney, James Gass, described his client as "a clean-cut American girl sitting in jail, so she's having a hard time. But she will be OK."
Whitehurst resigned from her job earlier this month.