Female coach sentenced to 3 years for sex with student

By COLLEEN JENKINS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2007

TAMPA -- As a teacher and basketball coach at Wharton High School, Jaymee Wallace knew how much she could lose by having sex with a female student.

"Take this to your grave," she told those who learned of the clandestine relationship.

On Wednesday, her worst fears came true.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett sentenced Wallace, 30, to three years of prison, followed by three years of sex offender probation.

The one-time high school prom queen and salutatorian now will be registered for life as a sexual predator.

Reaction at Wharton was mixed. Some students said the girl -- 15 when the sex first occurred -- was old enough to make her own choices; others said Wallace went too far.

"I feel bad for her husband and son, but not for her because (the affair) went on for a while," said junior Amani Bryant, who had Wallace's husband as a math teacher. "She was the adult in that situation."

Wallace's punishment capped an emotional three-hour hearing, during which she was portrayed as a loving mother, devoted wife, woman of God and, in her darkest hour, betrayer of the trust society places in teachers.

The petite woman sobbed as she asked the victim's family and the judge to show mercy.

"I am deeply sorry for crossing the lines and boundaries that never should have been crossed," she said. "Please don't send me to prison."

Her words echoed those of her teenage victim, who in October said she didn't want Wallace jailed. Wallace had pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious battery and unlawful sexual activity with a minor, charges that threatened to put her in prison for nine to 30 years.

The victim, now 19, was away on a military assignment and did not attend Wednesday's hearing.

Her parents, however, sought prison time. Their daughter was a minor when the relationship occurred, they said, and her request for no jail time indicated the extent of her psychological damage.

"If that were (Wallace's) child," the victim's father said, "she would be standing here wanting her child to be vindicated."

The names of the parents and the girl are being withheld to protect their identities.

The girl was 14, a rising star on Wallace's team and a student in her math class, when she told the teacher that she was confused about her sexuality, prosecutor Kimberly Hindman said.

Wallace responded in December 2002 with a note attached to the student's math test.

"I think you're attractive," it said. "Do you feel the same?"

The pair traded more notes. The girl turned 15. They began having sex in Wallace's car, in her Tampa Palms apartment and near a running trail at the University of South Florida.

Their trysts continued even after Wallace married a fellow teacher and coach, Craig Wallace, in June 2003.

The victim's sister recalled Wednesday how Wallace begged her to keep her knowledge of the relationship "to the grave."

The 19-month relationship broke off in August 2004. Wallace was arrested in October 2005, after the victim confessed to her mother.

Since then, Wallace gave birth to a son with her husband and committed her life to Jesus Christ, her supporters said. They filled three courtroom benches.

Defense attorney Joe Bodiford said his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder; she watched her father abuse her mother and older siblings, and she aborted her first pregnancy.

Arguing that the victim was a willing participant, he asked for probation.

At 1 p.m., Padgett sentenced Wallace to prison. He refused her request to see her 10-month-old son, who was waiting outside the courtroom.

Again, Wallace sobbed.

"I want to see my son," she cried as deputies took her fingerprints. "Please. Please."

Times staff writer Amber Mobley contributed to this report.