Former church youth group leader Dana Brashear was sentenced today to five years in prison - well below state guidelines - for having sex with a 12-year-old boy.
Brashear, 30, of Alva was convicted last Oct. 12 of two counts of lewd/lascivious battery for having sex with the boy, who was a member of the youth group she directed at Crossroads Baptist Church.
Evidence showed Brashear would check the boy in and out of his school in the spring of 2002 without his mother's knowledge.
During her trial, Brashear maintained her innocence as defense attorney Joseph A. Simposon of Fort Myers portrayed the boy as a liar.
Tears streamed down her eyes Friday as she admitted her crimes.
"I'm sorry I had sex with him," she said - and apologized to the boy's mother.
"I pray you can forgive me," Brashear said. "I know it has caused both of our families harm. There's been so many things said and done and for that I'm sorry.
"I was wrong," she said. "I wanted to say that. I would appreciate it if you would tell him I never meant to harm him."
Turning to her own family and supporters, Brashear had more tears and apologies.
"I love you and I'm sorry for the embarrassment that this cost you, cost our church and cost everyone, really," she said. "I love you."
The crimes Brashear was found guilty of are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
State attorney's office felony division Chief Scott Cupp asked Lee Circuit Judge Lynn Gerald Jr. to sentence Brashear at the low end of the guidelines - since she finally admitted her responsibility - and send her to prison for 15 years.
Cupp said if it was a case of a man having sex with a 12-year-old girl, there'd be no question about a lengthy prison term.
Gerald - who called the decision one of his toughest - sentenced Brashear to 15 years and two months in prison, but suspended 10 years and two months of it.
He ordered Brashear to serve 10 years and two months of sex offender probation after release.
With credit for the 150 days she spent in jail after her arrest and while awaiting sentencing, Brashear could be out of prison within four years.
Gerald said he was giving Brashear a below guidelines sentence for several reasons.
He said the boy was "a willing participant" in the sex acts even though he was 12. He said he doesn't believe Brashear is "a danger to the community" because a psychologist who analyzed her determined the sex acts resulted from her need for attention instead of pedophilia.
The judge also said Brashear committed her crimes in "an unsophisticated manner" and he'd seen "harsher cases" of sex abuse punished by little more than probation.
Before the sentence was imposed, the boy's mother told the judge she and her son had received death threats from Brashear's supporters, who claimed in letters to the judge the boy was a liar being controlled by the devil.
She also said her home had been vandalized.
"For three years, we've been the victims of a very nasty situation," the woman said. "My son has been looked at as a criminal ... when the whole time he was a victim. He's my baby. What was done to him was not fair."
The boy was not in court.
His mother said he "could stand here today with total integrity because he was not wrong."
After sentencing, the woman had mixed emotions.
"I got the biggest thing I wanted, which was for her to admit what she did," she said.
She also said she believed Gerald was too lenient with Brashear.
"I disagree with it, but I'm not dragging my son through any more of this," she said. "Am I satisfied? No. Will I accept it? Yes."
Neither Cupp nor Simpson would comment on the sentence.
Cupp, however, had some words for Brashear's supporters.
"The way some of the community out there treated the victim and his family was disgraceful," Cupp said. "What needs to happen at this point is for the community to reach out and embrace them."