Former high school band director Lindsey Daniels was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison with five to serve in Forrest County Circuit Court after pleading guilty in March to sexual battery by a person in position of trust or authority.
She was fined $2,500 and ordered to pay court costs.
Daniels, 30, stood before 12th District Circuit Judge Robert Helfrich and apologized for her actions, blaming herself for what happened.
“I understand what I did was wrong on so many levels,” she said.
Daniels said she has been in therapy and working on correcting the behaviors that led to her crime. She asked for mercy from the court and a punishment that would involve no prison time.
Helfrich said regardless of her efforts to rehabilitate herself, she would still need to be held accountable.
“Fact of the matter is, you’re a predator,” he said.
The maximum sentence for the crime is 30 years and a $10,000 fine.
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The charge stemmed from multiple incidents involving a juvenile that took place in several locations.
Assistant District Attorney Becky Denham said Daniels violated the trust of the 16-year-old victim, the victim’s family, the school where she taught and the people of Forrest County.
Denham said the teen was going through a difficult time and had viewed Daniels as a mentor, of which Daniels took advantage.
“She told this child she loved her and this child believed it,” Denham said. “She pursued this child and this child believed the words that she was told.”
Text and social media messages showed Daniels knew engaging in sexual activity with the teen was illegal, yet she continued to pursue the sexual relationship and had the teen send her sexually explicit photos.
“She made statements to the child that ‘if I were arrested you will have to vouch for me,'” Denham said of Daniels.
Denham said Daniels only was sorry for her actions when she got caught and that a prison sentence would be appropriate.
“She sexually abused a student while she was in a position of authority or trust,” Denham said. “She is a criminal and she has committed a violent offense.”
Sexual battery has many definitions under Mississippi law, but one is if a person engages in sex with a child under age 18 if the person charged is in a position of trust or authority over the victim — such as a teacher.
Daniels, who worked at Forrest County Agricultural High School, was no longer employed with the school after her arrest. It is unclear whether she was fired or resigned.