A former English teacher at Paradise Valley High School was sentenced to six months in prison Friday for a sexual relationship with one of her students.
Jennifer Mally, 27, who could have been sentenced to up to six years in prison, cried moments before her sentencing in the downtown Phoenix courtroom, which was packed with media and about two dozen students, three of whom spoke in favor of the former cheerleading coach.
"I'm very, very sorry. I hurt all of these people in this room," Mally told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Andrew Klein. "I hope to live to be 90 years old. I know I have a lot of reparations to do. I've caused a lot of damage and have a lot of making up to do. My job was to create boundaries every step of the way, and I didn't do my job."
Her husband, Andrew Mally, spoke in support of his wife, saying he's been punished himself. He described his wife as the most selfless person he has ever known.
"Knowing your wife has been arrested for having sex with a minor is a hard pill to swallow," he said. "And comforting someone who has just broken your heart is tough."
No one spoke against Mally at the hearing, but prosecutor Jeanine Sorrentino said Mally injured not only the victim but also students who needed her guidance.
"The victim is not a lucky guy," Sorrentino said. "He was manipulated by a teacher he should have been able to trust. Everyone is standing up for Mrs. Mally, but no one is standing up for the victim."
Klein said he was not a proponent of the double standard of female teachers receiving lighter sentences than male teachers convicted of sexual conduct with minors.
"Probation is not appropriate," Klein said, despite the pleas of those who spoke on Mally's behalf to give her probation. "The relationship went unabated for seven months. She had the ability to stop the relationship, but chose to participate."
Erin Spiers, a forensic and clinical psychologist from Scottsdale, said during the hearing that she conducted a six-hour psychological evaluation of Mally in August. Spiers said that she determined Mally's interpersonal level was equivalent to someone in their midteens with childlike needs, something Mally was not happy to hear, Spiers said.
"Her actions were not predatory in nature," Spiers said. "She did not seek out the boy for sex. She had a low self-esteem, and needed constant reassurance. In her capacity as the cheer coach, she was 'one of the girls.' She was incapable of internalizing her authority role and ill-equipped to manage the demands of her profession."
Mally pleaded guilty in March to three felony counts of sexual conduct with a minor. She was originally charged with 29 criminal counts involving sexual acts with the 16-year-old student from October 2006 to April 2007. Text messages between Mally and the boy about homework assignments led to banter about sexual preferences before they had sex at her home and the boy's home, according to a police report.
The victim and his family chose not to be present for the sentencing, Klein said.
Mally's attorney, Mel McDonald, said he believed Mally's sentence was fair.
"I think she needs to feel part of the punishment for what has happened, and that's part of the healing process," McDonald said.
A police report revealed the boy told school officials of their relationship despite Mally's pleas in a telephone call, which was recorded by police, urging him to deny the relationship.
"You're 16 years old. I could go to (expletive) jail," Mally said during the telephone call. "As long as you say 'no' to all of this, it can't go any further." She told the boy: "You're the only one who can make this go away."