As her family sat glumly in the front row of the Charlton County courtroom, some of them crying softly, DaNita Wilson, 33, pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual assault before Superior Court Judge Jeffrey H. Kight.
Kight accepted the plea agreement offered by Senior Assistant District Attorney Alex Markowich and sentenced Wilson to 25 years on each of the six counts, with 15 to be served on probation, and ordered them to be served concurrently.
As a condition of her sentence, Kight ordered her to have no contact with minors except her two young children and, ultimately, her grandchildren should she have any. She must also register as a sex offender upon her release.
Although the age of consent is 16 in Georgia, it is a felony under state law for a teacher to have sex with a student.
Wilson had originally been accused of having sex with seven students, but was indicted on six counts.
She could have received a far longer sentence had she gone to trial and been convicted because one of the students was 15. Sexual assault on a person under 16 carries a sentence of 25 to 50 years.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the portion of the charge that one of the students was under 16.
“Twenty-five years, and you’re going to serve every day of that,” Markowich said of the way Georgia law treats the crime.
Markowich told Kight the mother of the youngest victim agreed to the lesser charge because she believed 10 years in prison was a sufficient punishment.
The mother also was glad justice would be done, but it was a “sense of justice tempered by mercy,” he told Kight.
Wilson’s lawyer, John Thigpen, told the Times-Union Wilson would have had a lot to overcome at trial because she had made statements shortly after her arrest that amounted to a confession.
“You had her confession and the word of the students,” Thigpen said. “But at least we avoided that 25 years.”
Wilson was arrested in January 2013, released on $35,000 bail and was immediately removed from her job teaching ninth-grade math.
Charlton County schools Superintendent John Lairsey said at the time his office had been investigating allegations against Wilson and contacted the Sheriff’s Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Wilson answered Kight’s questions softly, looking mostly straight ahead. One of her longest statements was when Kight, in ensuring she understood the proceedings, asked her about her level of education.
Because she was a teacher, Kight said, he assumed she had a degree.
“I have a master’s degree,” Wilson said.
Upon sentencing, Kight remanded her to the custody of the Sheriff’s Office.
Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405