Ex-teacher gets 10 years in jail

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A former Harlem High School teacher who had sex with a student was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday.

Chase  File/Staff
File/Staff
Chase

Melissa L. Chase, 29, stood trembling before the judge, dressed in a jail uniform of bright orange cotton smock and pants, her hands and feet chained.

She blamed no one but herself, apologizing profusely to her victim, family, friends, supporters and former peers - those hurt because of her selfishness, she said. As her supporters in Richmond County Superior Court cried, Ms. Chase apologized for the embarrassment she had caused. She spoke of her shame in seeing her parents in tears begging a judge for mercy. She asked for none for herself.

In a Richmond County bench trial in June, Superior Court Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. found Ms. Chase guilty of sexual assault against a student enrolled in school. She had a single sexual encounter last year with a 16-year-old girl. The teenager had been one of her students the previous year.

What she did was wrong, her supporters said in court Friday, but it shouldn't cancel out all of the good she has done.

Her minister spoke of her remorse; a former colleague spoke of how much Ms. Chase had given and how she has lost a profession she loved; and the mother of a former student told of how much Ms. Chase had done for students to help them bring out the best in themselves.

"Ms. Chase is an absolute outstanding individual," said her attorney Greg Leopard.

Assistant District Attorney Adam King said it wasn't a matter of trying to say Ms. Chase was a bad person, but she committed a crime, regardless of what one might think of the law.

"Our hands are tied by the law," he said.

Judge Brown agreed. He said state legislators have taken a strong stand against sexual offenses, especially those involving children and those committed against people in a position ripe for coercion, such as schools.

He sentenced Ms. Chase to 10 years in prison - the mandatory minimum sentence - followed by five years of probation.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (67) Add comment
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wildcountrygirl37
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wildcountrygirl37 08/04/07 - 01:43 am
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She should have got longer

She should have got longer sentence then that sorry teacher

good7ness7
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good7ness7 08/04/07 - 06:23 am
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Well. this is the south

Well. this is the south where women are to be seen(and you better be pretty) and not heard.
If she was a male she would be serving much less time and excused for having a moment of lust!!!!!!!!!!
The sixteen year old is also responsible. Sixteen year olds now are like twenty one year olds from twenty years ago and with much more provacative behavior.. Move forward southerners!!!!!!!!!

bone
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bone 08/04/07 - 06:45 am
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i don't understand the "this

i don't understand the "this is the south" comment. could you explain it, good7ness7?

redapples
681
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redapples 08/04/07 - 06:56 am
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What exactly is she guilty of

What exactly is she guilty of criminally? The girl she had sex with was 16 years old. I'm NOT condoning this, but just curious about the crime that gives her a mandatory 10 year sentence. Some killers get off with less and it is a little disturbing to me!

PFLY775
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PFLY775 08/04/07 - 06:58 am
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She'll be out in two or less.

She'll be out in two or less. But this should be a lesson to adult women and men to keep your drawers on when it comes to underage people. There are plenty of legal age adults available for dating. Wake up and smell the jail cell!

buckwheat00
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buckwheat00 08/04/07 - 07:04 am
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wake up...she's a sexual

wake up...she's a sexual predator...no less than any man in the same situation..and a school teacher too...come on don't be an idiot and defend her unless you would have done the same thing...

redapples
681
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redapples 08/04/07 - 07:07 am
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I thought 16 years old was of

I thought 16 years old was of legal, consenting age. I agree with everything you are saying and am NOT defending this teacher. Is 16 years old legal or not?

bebbe
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bebbe 08/04/07 - 07:40 am
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The student was 16...legal

The student was 16...legal age by the law. Yes, the teacher was in a postition of leadership, but the act did not occur on school grounds. I believe the teacher was a coach...therefore not giving academic grades .

PlayaFace
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PlayaFace 08/04/07 - 07:58 am
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she is an adult and a

she is an adult and a teacher. she should have been more responsible and not have let this happen. I would definitly be upset to know that my 16 year old was involved with a teacher more than 10 years older. the teacher deserves some kind of jail time but i think ten years may be a bit too long.

southerngal
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southerngal 08/04/07 - 08:08 am
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I agree that Chase did

I agree that Chase did something completely wrong, but a 10 year sentence is overboard. The girl was 16 years of age, old enough to know better and has some blame to shoulder as well. There are drunk drivers who kill people who never served a day in jail after their conviction. The scales of justice was not balanced in this case.

Dan4th
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Dan4th 08/04/07 - 08:34 am
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Wow 10 years, the crime was

Wow 10 years, the crime was bad but 10 years. She did not rape her, this was consenual. What did the 16 year old get?

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 08/04/07 - 08:40 am
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southerngal, how many of your

southerngal, how many of your life decisions do you want a 16 year old person to make for you? My point is that while 16 is the age of consent, it is not an age of maturity. The teacher forgot all she knew about responsibilities to students in a moment of lust. Adults, especially teachers, must be responsible for the young. As coalminer said, there are plenty of adults to harvest. Ms Chase past doesn't indicate she's a predator, she just felt exempt from the risks of the law. Bad decision. She'll be out in less then 3 yrs unless there's a non-parole clause in the law. She'll be much wiser, but she'll not work in a government school system again unless she moves to a very liberal state.

southerngal
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southerngal 08/04/07 - 08:47 am
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She will not get out in a

She will not get out in a couple of years. She must serve a mandatory 10 years. Yes, she made a bad decision, but a 16 year old does know the difference between right and wrong and does have some responsibility in this very sad incident.

CHIEF
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CHIEF 08/04/07 - 09:01 am
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One would hope she serves

One would hope she serves timed in a facility like charles walker and is released sooner. she gay big deal. we have a few around here for years and they have not gone to jail. sadness is the only thing left.

Does_it_really_matter
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Does_it_really_matter 08/04/07 - 09:38 am
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What about Terri and her

What about Terri and her eternal sentance?

ga social worker
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ga social worker 08/04/07 - 10:13 am
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Unfortunatly there are many

Unfortunatly there are many sexual predators out there. Many of them tend to work in professions that put them in contact with their victims. I know of a local counselor who has worked in the mental health and substance abuse field for years in the CSRA. He tends to prey on young men who are mandated for treatment by the court system. Unfortunatly he is able to intimidate them by threats that he will report them to the courts if they say anthing about his sexual encounters with them. Most are afraid of this or embarrased that he would reveal that they had sex with another man. This individual has been doing this for over 20 yrs. He has been fired from several local agencies when he has been discovered. Unfortunatly because he does not have a professional liscence he cant be reported to the liscencing board and none of his victims have come forward to press charges. This is typical of many of the victims of these types of crimes. Last week there was an article about a N. Augusta official who had been a local TV personality 20 yrs ago who allegedly molested a 12 yr old boy. It took the boy 20 yrs to come forward and when he did more also came forward.

southerngal
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southerngal 08/04/07 - 10:30 am
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"Terri's enternal sentence?"

"Terri's enternal sentence?" You cannot be serious. Suicide is a very complicated subject and cannot be blamed on just one bad thing that happens to a person. Terri's situation was tragic and sad and has no business brought into this situation at all. God, I feel sorry for you and will pray for you for that comment.

owensjef
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owensjef 08/04/07 - 11:05 am
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If she was blond and pretty

If she was blond and pretty and had sex with a boy she would be in much better shap.

owensjef
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owensjef 08/04/07 - 11:18 am
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We have got to stop making an

We have got to stop making an example out of people instead of education and correcting irresponsible behavior.

owensjef
13
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owensjef 08/04/07 - 11:21 am
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16 months and probation would

16 months and probation would have been find.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/04/07 - 11:26 am
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I agree she should not be

I agree she should not be punished so severely, but 10 years is harsh when more violent crimes get less. Not to say she shouldnt have gotten a stiff punishment sentence, just they should be enforcing the same stiffness on some of these violent criminals and repeat offenders they allow to roam our streets!! Prioritys on criminal sentences are very screwed up!!!lol I would rather see her lose her position and have to get a regular job not with kids and have her not in jail for 10 years than to see these repeat offender duis cases with 4 or 5 not serving more than the night in jail that they were arrested. Which one is more dangerous to you?? I know which one I would pick!!

jack
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jack 08/04/07 - 11:35 am
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gasocialworker, you are as

gasocialworker, you are as much at fault for not reporting this conduct against patients as the one taking advantage of them. Shame on you! As for Chase, she got what she deserved. 16 year olds are still kids and not necessarily responsible for what they are talked into doing by some silk tongued adult. Had it been a man, he would have been charged with contibuting to the delinquincy of a minor, whether the girl is of legal age or not. I don't want some lesbian around my grand daughter at any age. Owensjet, I do believe there have been female teachers put in jail recently for having sex with under age male students. Should parents fear their kids going to school and being takn advantage of by their teachers who are their authority figures?

Rose
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Rose 08/04/07 - 11:41 am
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10 yrs is a mandatory minimum

10 yrs is a mandatory minimum sentence. It is the law.That means the judge could not give her less time than 10 yrs.Also, today there are some crimes that the law has a minimum sentence that has to be served. That means no getting out early.I know od one case of kidnapping. The minimum in GA is 10 yrs with no parole. The judge can give a longer sentence but no less.

owensjef
13
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owensjef 08/04/07 - 11:42 am
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Not the pretty ones, I am not

Not the pretty ones, I am not condoning this act I just think 10 years woe. Remember the dirty old teacher from columbia count got no time in jail. (male)

Rose
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Rose 08/04/07 - 11:45 am
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Don't blame the judge. Blame

Don't blame the judge. Blame your legisltors in Atlanta if you think the sentence is to long.

RichmondCountyResident1
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RichmondCountyResident1 08/04/07 - 12:07 pm
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I think ten years is a bit

I think ten years is a bit harsh.What she done was foolish, but why would we want take care of this person for ten years, our tax dollars could be put to better use.Two or three years and get some help would seem more in order.

Rose
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Rose 08/04/07 - 12:18 pm
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But the judge has to go by

But the judge has to go by the law. He gave the minimum sentence.

TakeAstand
13
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TakeAstand 08/04/07 - 12:22 pm
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We understand that rose, its

We understand that rose, its the laws that are messed up, especially when worse and violent crimes have less of a mandatory sentence like the repeat dui offenders spoke of. Not sayin hers should be lowered but there are so many more than need to be raised and enforced, and they are not, thats my beef with it. lol

Rose
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Rose 08/04/07 - 12:41 pm
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sexual assault is a felony.

sexual assault is a felony.

southerngal
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southerngal 08/04/07 - 01:08 pm
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This poorly written law will

This poorly written law will stand until a relative of a person of high authority, such as a Georgia legislator, media star, religious leader, gets arrested and convicted of the same thing Chase was convicted of. Those people will then want the law changed becuase it is unfair. If belong to a minority, such as women, non-whites or gays, you will be made an example of by those who only want to show off how much power they have to enforce laws that they would not enforce on themseleves or their relatives.

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