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A former middle school teacher was found guilty of performing oral sex on an eighth-grade student in her classroom, but her attorney claims she was coerced into it.
Justine Karen Nelson, 33, was found guilty of the sex act by a Fresno County jury on Tuesday but she was acquitted of the felony charge of committing a lewd or lascivious act with a minor.
Nelson, who worked at Tenaya Middle School in Fresno, broke out into tears when the not guilty part of the verdict was read, the Fresno Bee reports.
Deputy District Attorney Liz Owen told the jury that Nelson joked to detectives about “hooking up with a 14-year-old” but also denied having a relationship with the student or giving him oral sex.
Defense attorney Roger Nuttall said the more serious charge hinged on whether the boy was 13 or 14 years old at the time of the oral sex. Her attorney said she had been coerced into the sex act after he threatened to tell people about their close relationship, according to KFSN in Fresno. The lawyer blamed the alleged coercion for Nelson’s sexual acts and for her sending the boy naked pictures of herself.
The student and his family are reportedly suing Fresno Unified School District for negligence, sexual battery and sexual misconduct.
Nelson now faces up to three years in prison. She will have to register as a sex offender, KFSN reports.
She is both married and pregnant with her second child.
“I am just thankful it’s over,” Nelson said after the verdict, according to the Fresno Bee. “I can now move on with my life and focus on my family.”
She will be sentenced on June 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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