Former teacher's 12-year prison sentence upheld: Binkley convicted in 2009 for having sex with student

Former Portland High School teacher Sandy Binkley’s attempt to reduce her 12-year prison sentence for having sex with a 17-year-old student at school failed last week.

Following a four-day trial in Gallatin, Binkley, 39, was convicted Sept. 30, 2009 of two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and was sentenced two months later to 12 years in prison, the maximum verdict possible. The convictions stem from a 2008 incident that occurred between Binkley and a teen in a girls volleyball locker room office at Portland High School. Binkley had alleged she was raped.

Binkley’s attorneys soon appealed the verdict. Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeals in Nashville reviewed the trial and evidence records and heard arguments from defense and prosecution attorneys on April 19 and upheld the verdict on Aug. 23.

“I’m glad the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, because there’s nothing more serious than a teacher trying to have sex with a student at school,” Sumner County District Attorney Ray Whitley said. “When parents send their children to school, they have to have the confidence their children are there to be educated and protected and not that they’ll have teachers trying to have sex with them. We cannot have that at our schools.”

Three boys alleged having sex with teacher

Binkley, who taught math at Portland High at the time of the incidents, was initially arrested on Sept. 25, 2008, for charges stemming from alleged sexual incidents involving two students that occurred in March of that year. Allegations involving another boy resulted in more charges Oct. 1. Police say she frequently called and sent text messages to the victims.

“They had a very good textual as well as sexual relationship,” Whitley said during the trial of Binkley and one of the victims.

Whitley alleged Binkley had sex with students in a school office, in the closet of her classroom and in her vehicle. He also accuses Binkley of having intimate contact with a student at her home while her family was at church. Three students testified during the trial of having had mutually consensual sex with her.

Binkley’s attorneys, however, claim there was only one incident – a rape by one of the victims – and that all the other allegations made by the other victims are lies intended to cover the act.

“It was not a consensual act,” said David Ridings, Binkley's attorney. “It was a forcible rape.”

Binkley had been charged with six counts of rape by an authority figure and three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, the latter meaning that she used her position of power as a teacher to obtain sex. The charges involve three alleged victims, two of whom are brothers. She had pleaded not guilty to all charges and remained on administrative leave without pay pending the resolution of the trial. Binkley was found not guilty of seven of the nine charges.

Binkley's attorneys argue sentence too severe

The defense attorneys appealed Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay's verdict with the argument that during the trial Gay improperly sentenced Binkley to the maximum punishment based on her offenses. The defense also opposed Gay’s decision to not allow the testimony of one of her expert witnesses, a psychologist, to explain why Binkley did not report the alleged rape until after she was arrested, and why at times a rape victim may not resist forced sex. During the trial Gay said the psychologist’s testimony would be speculative and is therefore inadmissible.

After thoroughly reviewing all records, the appellate judges agreed with Gay’s latter judgment. Citing evidence, the appellate judges also wrote in their opinion that after the March 2008 incident — the one Binkley alleged as rape — she continued communicating with the victim, enticed him to her house, where sexual activities took place, after which she told him he “owed” her one. Facebook communication confirms Binkley’s words.

“One what?” Whitley had asked during the trail. “Another rape?”

12-year sentence 'is not out of line'

The appellate judges reaffirmed in their decision Binkley would have likely continued sexual activity with the victim if she hadn’t been arrested.

“(Binkley) cultivated a relationship with the victim,” appellate Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer wrote in the opinion. “She sent him sexually charged texts, discussed his sexual attractiveness with her peers, and she made sexual advances toward him. (The victim) admitted that he had wanted to have sex with (Binkley) but agreed that doing so changed things for him for the worse. He went on to talk about the severely negative impact (Binkley’s) false accusations of rape had upon his life…the 12-year sentence is reasonably related to the severity of her offenses, and (Binkley’s) sentence is not out of line.”

Binkley, who is currently in the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, can appeal her conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Unlike the Court of Criminal Appeals, Tennessee's highest court can choose whether to hear the case.

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