June 19, 2004

A former Tempe teacher who said she had "sinned against herself and offended" her God was sentenced to a lifetime of probation Friday for having sex with a student.

Grace Gamez, 25, also was ordered to register as a sex offender and perform 300 hours of community service by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Keppel.

In addition, Keppel gave Gamez a deferred jail sentence of two months that can be imposed, deleted or deferred again depending on how she does on probation between now and February 2005.

Gamez, an English teacher and basketball coach, pleaded guilty to twice having sex with a 17-year-old female Marcos de Niza High School student during the 2002-03 school year.

Gamez could have received as much as four years in prison, but the victim and her family asked she instead be given probation so she could undergo counseling.

They didn’t want Gamez to receive any jail time either, but prosecutor Angela Andrews recommended she receive at least some time behind bars for abusing her position of authority and trust.

Defense attorney Bruce Blumberg pleaded with Keppel to place his client on probation, noting she genuinely loved the victim and would never have started the affair had she known the ridicule the girl would endure once it got out.

"She was an exemplary person before she engaged in this human act of life. She didn’t entice her and she didn’t lure her," Blumberg said.

A crying Gamez apologized to the victim and the girl’s family, saying she wished she could take it back.

She also asked Keppel to show "mercy and compassion" for her 4-week-old daughter, saying she didn’t realize when she signed her plea agreement that she could lose custody of her.

Keppel amended Gamez’s plea agreement, saying she could have contact with minor children in her immediate family only.

Gamez was arrested in April 2003 after the girl, who is now 18, told detectives about their sexual relationship, which began around mid-December 2002.

At the direction of Gamez, the girl destroyed letters and e-mails sent between them, but police found journal entries and letters in Gamez’s Chandler apartment that referred to sexuality in their relationship, the document states.

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