Each of the participants who spoke Thursday afternoon during the sentencing of former LakeView Technology Academy teacher Meiranda A. Patterson agreed on one fact.
Even though she had been convicted just one day earlier of a felony charge of exposing a child to harmful material, neither a prison or probation term was appropriate in this case.
The punishment the now 30-year-old has had — and will continue to have — to endure is more than enough, they agreed.
And in the end, that was the ruling of Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce E. Schroeder, who levied a $1,000 fine plus court costs against the defendant, who will have six months to pay. In lieu of making that payment, she could serve 36 days in the County Jail.
In addition, Patterson will have to register for the sex offender registry for a period of 15 years.
She had faced a maximum prison term of 18 months, along with 15 years of extended supervision.
The mother of the now 15-year-old girl, who was shown an illicit photograph by the defendant as the two set up for an after-school event Oct. 25, 2019, spoke to Schroeder during an opportunity for a victim impact statement.
There are a number of ways Patterson will feel the effects of this conviction, the mother said, including the expected revocation of her teaching license by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
“I know that Ms. Patterson has to face that reality every day,” the mother said. “I feel that anything over that is punitive. (myself and my daughter) have no intention or desire to see Ms. Patterson in jail.
“I think, at this point, knowing she can never teach again is a pretty big punishment, a lifelong punishment,” the mother said.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Emily Gaertner recommended a fine without probation, as she said the case didn’t rise to any level higher than that.
“Admittedly, this is a strange case,” she said. “(Cases like these are normally) done with sexually driven motivations. There is no evidence here that was a factor.”
Gaertner said she spoke to some faculty at the school and the victim, who agreed that Patterson may have some “boundary” issues between what is acceptable between a teacher and students, but nothing that went beyond that.
In the end, Gaertner agreed with the mother.
“Those non-sentencing related repercussions she will be living with are quite a punishment,” she said. “... I think this has been a very eye-opening experience for Ms. Patterson. Her life will never be the same.”
A lifetime career ended
Patterson, who did not speak on her behalf, graduated from Carthage College in 2015 with a degree in special education and history, along with a minor in secondary education.
“(Education) was goin to be her lifetime career,” defense attorney Terry Rose said. “... She is going to need to change her career plans. She had no idea this was going to be such a life-changing event.”
Rose listed a number of volunteer activities that Patterson engaged in, which showed how much she cared about her students before what he called an “isolated” incident.
There is no doubt Patterson will never repeat this type of behavior, Rose said.
“This event is quite out of character,” he said. “This is not something that’s going to be repeated in any sort of fashion. She’s learned her lesson here, judge. ... she’ll never be back in this courtroom.”
In deciding not to place Patterson on probation, Schroeder said he didn’t see what value Patterson would gain, while also placing a high cost to the taxpayer to have her under supervision.
“This is not a case where I would expect any benefit,” he said. “She made a bad judgement, which many people do. (She’s facing) severe consequences, certainly. I agree that probation isn’t suitable. Certainly, prison is not. ... This defendant has already faced a substantial punishment.”
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