Former West Ada teacher gets 120 days for sex with student

Former West Ada teacher gets 120 days for sex with student. (Mountain View HS)

Before a former Mountain View High School teacher was sentenced Tuesday to 120 days in jail followed by probation and a lifetime of sex offender registration, the student she had a sexual relationship with told a crowded courtroom how his life changed as a result.

He described himself as an “invisible kid,” he said, but after Rebecca Mason-Cales, 26, was arrested for the sexual relationship she had with him, everyone knew who he was. Even as the case made national headlines, his friends didn’t support him, he said — they were more apt to make jokes about the situation or congratulate him rather than offer help. One of them even called him a rapist.

“People I didn’t know at school would come up to me and ask how it happened,” he said in court, adding he became “the quiet kid everyone knew.”

Meridian police believe that relationship began in August 2017, when the boy was a 16-year-old junior in Mason-Cales’ class. School officials learned about the relationship from an anonymous tip, which led law enforcement to arrest Mason-Cales in February on suspicion of six counts of battery against a minor child aged 16 or 17. Although she initially pleaded not guilty to those charges, in August she entered a revised guilty plea of guilty to one count.

By law, the boy said, he knows he is a victim. But he doesn’t accept the label personally.

“The interactions between me and Rebecca were all consensual, and I was never forced or coerced into doing something that I didn’t want to do,” he said.

He added he still cares about her and said “if she were to go to jail for this, the state and its people would not be any safer.”

John Dinger, the case’s prosecutor, told 4th District Court Judge Richard Greenwood he saw the case “very differently.” Dinger pointed out the teen wrote a letter to the court and acknowledged his guilt because Mason-Cales is married, and thus she committed adultery.

“It’s heartbreaking he ends up apologizing at the end of the letter,” Dinger said.

This case, Dinger said, “shows why you can’t have sex with children, why a teacher can’t have sex with her students.”

Michael Bartlett, Mason-Cales’ attorney, was candid about the fact that the relationship was hurtful and should never have happened. But it wasn’t a malicious act on Mason-Cales’ part, he said.

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“It was not based on what so many crimes are based on — greed or control or power, but a connection,” he said. “A damaging one.”

He told Greenwood that Mason-Cales cooperated with police, and he reminded the judge of the other punishments she’d faced outside of court, such as the loss her job and the hurtful media coverage of the crime.

About halfway through his oration, he turned and asked everyone who had arrived in court in support of Mason-Cales to stand. The crowd in the courtroom’s full back three pews — about 15 people — all rose in response.

Mason-Cales herself accepted responsibility for the crime during her brief address to the court.

“I admit that I failed tremendously in my responsibility as an adult, and I’ve hurt a tremendous amount of people I know, and some I don’t even know,” she said.

In sentencing, Greenwood acknowledged the fact that, at one time in history, teens were expected to have families and jobs, but said society had moved away from that model as time passed, which is why Mason-Cales’ conduct was criminal.

“We have someone who is a fully functioning adult, and someone who is not quite an adult,” Greenwood said. “Far from it.”

He sentenced Mason-Cales to 120 days in jail, followed by a period of up to seven years of sex offender probation. In addition to that, she is not allowed to have contact with the teen until he is 21 years old, he said, and she is barred from working anywhere she would have contact with children ages 12 to 18. She is also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.

To some extent, he said, he saw the case as something of a deterrent.

“It does not hurt for people to have in the back of their minds that when you do this, you get punished,” he said.

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