A former teacher at Colonial Forge High School who admitted to having sex with four students was ordered Thursday to serve three years in prison.
Judge Victoria Willis’ sentence for 28-year-old Erica Lynne Mesa is six times longer than maximum called for in the recommended state sentencing guidelines, which suggested an active sentence of between three and six months.
Mesa has already served eight months, so she and her attorney, Mark Gardner, were hopeful that she would be released on Thursday.
But Willis had other ideas.
“No sentence I can fashion can unring the bell of damage you have done,” said Willis, who called Mesa’s actions “horrific.”
After court, Gardner said he was “shocked” by the ruling.
Mesa, who taught math at Colonial Forge, already had pleaded guilty to two counts of electronic solicitation of a minor and two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
She was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 22 years, but 19 years were suspended.
According to the evidence presented by prosecutor Andrea Stewart, the Sheriff’s Office began hearing rumors last year about a teacher who was having sex with Colonial Forge students.
The school eventually received an anonymous tip, and Mesa gave a full confession when she was confronted.
Her convictions involved only two students, but she admitted to sex with two others. Only one was under 18 at the time of the sex acts.
The sex acts took place in her vehicle in the Courthouse Road commuter lot and at her home when her husband was away.
Mesa told Detective Sgt. Chris Cameron about one incident in which she had sex with one young man while another waited his turn in her basement. She told Cameron it made her feel “attractive and wanted.”
Prior to Willis announcing her sentence, Gardner said his client already had suffered enough.
He said she has lost her career and marriage, suffered public humiliation and will be on the state sex-offender registry for at least 15 years.
“She doesn’t need to suffer any longer to be a deterrence to others,” Gardner said. “She will wear the shame and dishonor of her conduct for the rest of her life.”
Stewart disputed the notion that Mesa had lost anything.
“She threw those things away,” Stewart said.
Stewart said that while the teens may not consider themselves victims, Mesa set a horrible example.
“She’s taught them to sneak around, lie, have sex with another man’s wife, then look him in the eye.”
Mesa, who had no prior criminal record, made a statement prior to being sentenced in which she apologized to just about everyone, including the school, the county and her former husband.
“I will have a lifetime of reminders of the mistakes I have made,” she said.