The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned a teacher’s 30-year prison sentence for his affair with a student, the Arkansas News reported, saying it was unconstitutional to prevent consenting adults from having sexual relationships.
David Paschal, 38, admitted to a five-month long relationship with an 18-year-old student at Elkins High School and received 30 years in prison, 10 years suspended sentence for sexual assault and a $4,000 fine for attempting to bribe a witness.
After hearing the appeal, the court overturned the law in a 4-3 decision on Thursday.
“Regardless of how we feel about Paschal’s conduct, which could correctly be referred to as reprehensible, we cannot abandon our duty to uphold the rule of law when a case presents distasteful facts,” Chief Justice Jim Hannah wrote, according to the News.
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The justices said as the law reads today, it “criminalizes sexual conduct between adults.”
Casey Copeland, Paschal’s lawyer, said there are other ways to prevent teachers from taking advantage of students under age 18 other than hefty prison sentences.
Paschal taught history and psychology.
“This case does not necessarily say a teacher can do that and keep their job,” Copeland said, according to USA Today. “The loss of job and loss of teacher’s license might be appropriate for that, but it’s not appropriate to put someone in jail for 30 years.”
There is no word yet on an appeal, or legislative challenges, Fox News reported.
“We’re reviewing the decision,” said a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe. “It’s way too early to talk about any immediate attempts at a legislative response.”
Paschal’s prison sentence will be dismissed, but his bribery case will return to a lower court.
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