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Woman Volunteer teacher pleads guilty rather than face second sex-abuse trial

Posted on: October 29, 2009

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Volunteer teacher pleads guilty rather than face second sex-abuse trial

Updated: 10/23/2009 06:37:37 PM MDT



// 0){
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// ]]>A Moab volunteer teacher and softball coach who served three years in prison for allegedly sexually abusing a 14-year-old student before the Utah Supreme Court overturned her convictions accepted a plea deal involving one count of forcible sodomy.

But Arielle M. Beck on Thursday entered a so-called “Alford plea” to the second-degree felony offense, not technically admitting guilt but accepting the plea deal to avoid possible convictions on more serious charges.

In exchange for her plea, prosecutors dismissed three second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse and misdemeanor counts of child abuse, unlawfully supplying alcohol to a minor and allowing an unlicensed person to drive.

Following entry of Beck’s plea, 3rd District Judge Michele Christiansen placed her on probation for five years and ordered her to pay $7,827.03 in restitution to the state Victim’s Reparation Fund.

Beck also must complete sex-offender counseling and contact the state Sex Offender Registry, where her name will appear for 10 years.

Had the plea deal not been completed, Beck, 30, was scheduled for trial next week.

Beck was charged with sexually abusing Moab teenager Kelly Sowell, who hanged herself in her bedroom closet two years after Beck’s first trial, apparently after being harassed because of her involvement with the coach, Sowell’s family has said.

The Utah Supreme Court overturned Beck’s 2003 convictions in August 2007.

The high court said Beck was denied an impartial trial because 7th District Judge Lyle Anderson asked “prosecutorial” questions of Beck while she was on the witness stand.Jurors convicted Beck of three second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse, as well as the misdemeanor counts of stalking and supplying alcohol to a minor. Anderson ordered all terms to run consecutively, and said the misdemeanor convictions must be served separately at the Grand County jail.

After Beck was paroled from prison in October 2006, she served 11 months at the jail before the convictions were overturned.

The case was moved to Salt Lake City, with a Utah Attorney General’s Office prosecutor handling the case for the state. Defense attorney Edward Brass had filed motions requesting Anderson’s recusal from the case, citing bias.

At Beck’s first trial, Kelly Sowell testified the teacher kissed and sexually touched her on several occasions in 2002, including at school football games.

Prosecutors presented written and e-mail correspondence as proof of Beck’s alleged romantic intentions. Beck denied any sexual relationship and claimed she never sent romantic letters.

Sowell’s mother, Sherilyn Sowell, previously told The Tribune her daughter was harassed by classmates, who accused the girl of lying about Beck.

The mother said her daughter received two Internet threats on the day she committed suicide in November 2005. Sowell said her son, 30-year-old Kevin Sowell, committed suicide a few months later, apparently because he felt he had let his sister down.

Sowell had expressed having mixed emotions about seeing the case go to trial for a second time.

“Is taking it back to court going to change anything?” Sowell said, referring to her children’s deaths.




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