CONWAY — A Chocorua woman who worked as a substitute teacher in Pennsylvania and pleaded guilty there to having sexual contact with a student was sentenced Monday.
Whitney Roberts was placed on that state's sex offender registry for 25 years and will be on probation for a year, a Pennsylvania judge decided.
Roberts, 26, pleaded guilty March 12 to a third-degree felony count of intercourse/sexual contact with a student. Third-degree felonies are less serious than first-degree felonies.
Police documents say Roberts had sex with the teenage boy a number of times.
Roberts is a former Kennett High School softball standout who previously organized a girls' softball tournament called the Mount Washington Valley Classic that was among the largest such tournaments in New England.
She also was head coach for an all-star softball team called the Concord Cannons.
Roberts was a member of the Barry University softball team in Miami, Fla., from 2011-12 before transferring to Plymouth State, where she pitched for the Panthers and received her bachelor's degree in biological science education.
In 2016, she was hired by Holy Cross University in Worcester, Mass., as an assistant softball coach.
She joined the Towanda (Pa.) Area School District in fall of 2017, starting as an intern. She later became a substitute teacher.
Pennsylvania State Police charged Roberts with two counts of institutional sexual assault and a misdemeanor corruption of a minor count regarding incidents that took place after a Nov. 17 party where Roberts apparently picked up a 17-year-old boy.
The affidavit of probable cause in the Roberts case says the boy told police he was at a party the Friday before Thanksgiving with Roberts whom he said was drinking.
According to the affidavit, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop P, criminal investigation unit spoke with the boy on Dec. 4, 2017. "He related that his student teacher, the defendant, was sitting there and she was drinking. The victim was sitting on the couch and the defendant came over and whispered in his ear. She told him that if he got up off the couch she would make out with him," the affidavit said.
He reported that they kissed and exchanged Snapchat names.
"He related the next day she picked him up and they went to her house and they had sex," the affidavit quotes the boy as saying.
"He related that he used a condom," the affidavit said. "He explained that he asked her if she had a condom and she did."
The boy said Roberts was "nervous about the whole thing" and that she told him to "'keep it low,' meaning quiet."
Other partygoers told police they saw Roberts and the boy exchange contact information. The boy reportedly told one of those witnesses that Roberts had picked him up that Saturday. He didn't tell the witness what happened after that.
On June 22, 2018, the case moved from a magisterial district court in Bradford County (Pa.) to the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas, where Roberts faced nine felony counts of intercourse/sexual contact with a student, and one felony count and one misdemeanor count each of corruption of a minor.
She pleaded guilty to one of those charges in March.
On Tuesday, the Sun spoke with Bradford County District Attorney Daniel Barrett about the case.
"Because of her conviction, under Pennsylvania laws, she will be required to register as a sex offender once a year and any time she changes jobs or cars," said Barrett.
"With this conviction, I expect her opportunities for employment as an educator and coach will be very limited."
The conviction and registry itself don't automatically restrict Roberts' abilities to find employment, but employers probably would not want to hire someone who is a registered sex offender, said Barrett, adding Roberts would have to continue to register even if she moved back to New Hampshire.
The conviction itself will be on her record for life.
Barrett said the Pennsylvania Probation Department could allow Roberts to serve out her probationary time to be supervised by another state, like New Hampshire.
Asked about this Tuesday, SAU 9 School Superintendent Kevin Richard said it's fair to say that Roberts' record would preclude her from holding a teaching job in SAU 9 or anywhere else in New Hampshire.
Barrett said that because the registry is such a "heavy sanction," Roberts probation supervision rather than incarceration was an appropriate sentence. She would be required to be evaluated and/or counseled in regard to sex offenses.
The registry is posted online.
Judge Evan Williams III of the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County, Pa., imposed 12 months of probation.
There are state guidelines for the range of possible sentences for a crime.
Barrett said this sentence fell under the "mitigated" end of the spectrum. A typical sentence would be three to 12 months of incarceration. That can be "mitigated" to no incarceration or "aggravated" to 24 months of incarceration.
"The offense in this case did not have a particularly harmful effect upon the student or his family," said Barrett, adding that the person most affected is probably Roberts herself, adding that she used "horrible judgment" to "engage in that sort of behavior."
The judge, Barrett said, said he had received a number of letters of support for her from parents of children that Roberts had coached.
"The judge found those letters impressive, and he felt that was another reason to accept a mitigated range sentence," said Barrett.
In court it was discussed that in the past six months or so, Evans had sentenced a female teacher's aide who was in her mid-30s and convicted of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female student. In that case, the aide was sentenced to six months of incarceration.
"However, that case was disgusting because the impact was very disruptive to the child's life, the child's family's life and to the defendant's own family," said Barrett, adding that the difference in age was also a factor in why the aide got jail time.
Barrett said the gender of the victims didn't play a part and that prosecutors and the judge were looking at impact on the victim.