A former Sycamore High School (Cincinnati) teacher who had a sexual relationship with a student and initially was charged with sexual battery pleaded guilty to a low-level felony Friday and was sentenced to probation.
The case against 27-year-old Jennifer Walsh took a dramatic turn earlier this week, when she was in the process of being sentenced on a gross sexual imposition charge. She had pleaded guilty to that charge in early June and faced up to 18 months in prison.
On Wednesday, the lead detective told Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Jody Luebbers that he believed the relationship between Walsh and the female student, who was 17 at the time, “was actually real…and it will probably continue to be real.”
Montgomery police Detective Steve Hoy also said Walsh had been truthful and cooperated with him throughout the investigation. He asked for leniency.
The student, now 18, told Luebbers that she never felt coerced. She wasn’t in a class with Walsh.
“I am completely in love with this woman, without a doubt,” she said.
Luebbers then stopped the sentencing, and according to Walsh’s attorney, Stew Mathews, asked prosecutors to reconsider their case.
Mathews said in an interview he had never seen that happen before.
“That closer look was spurred by Judge Luebbers, who’s compassionate and has a huge heart,” he said.
On Friday, prosecutors allowed Walsh to plead guilty to the new charge, interference with custody, and Luebbers imposed a one-year probation term.
Luebbers called the case “truly unique.” She said the female student wasn’t harmed and “engaged in this conduct willingly.”
“The detective said you’re not a sexual predator,” she told Walsh, “and I don’t think you are, either.”
Walsh, a special education teacher and girls junior varsity lacrosse coach, resigned in October 2018, three days after a report was made to Montgomery Police. Job and Family Services contacted police, documents say.
Walsh has lost her teacher’s license and won’t be able to teach again. She didn’t make a statement Friday, but at Wednesday’s hearing apologized, saying, “I would just like the opportunity to get back on my feet.”