Exactly one year after he was arrested for having a sexual relationship with one of his students, Sussex Technical High School teacher Charles Coursey was sentenced to five years in prison.
Coursey, 39, was arrested Jan. 25, 2012, and charged with three counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a child by a person of trust, four counts of second-degree unlawful sexual contact, two counts of dealing in child pornography and two counts of obscenity.
Coursey pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Dec. 5. On Jan. 25, he was sentenced by Judge T. Henley Graves.
Before Graves issued the sentence, defense attorney James Liguori said Coursey is genuinely remorseful for his actions. “When teachers are faced with this type of issue, there’s only one answer: No. And that didn’t happen,” Liguori said.
Liguori asked Graves to issue the minimum mandatory sentence of Coursey’s crime - two years in prison. “There’s been nothing like this, obviously, in his life before,” Liguori said.
Coursey, who towered above his attorney, began choking up as he told Graves he did not consider the consequences his actions would have on his wife, his son, the 17-year-old victim and her family. “It’s been really hard,” he said. “I’m extremely sorry for everything that has happened.”
Coursey said he has already begun attending several counseling programs.
Coursey’s wife, Holly Coursey, testified briefly on her husband’s behalf. “I’m not here to make excuses,” she said quietly. “He hurt a lot of people, but…”
Liguori walked to the podium and briefly embraced Holly, who was crying.
“He’s a good person, and he’s going to do everything he can,” she continued. “I assure you that nothing like this is ever going to happen again.”
Holly also asked Graves to issue the minimum mandatory sentence for her husband.
Deputy Attorney General John Donahue argued teachers are among the few people with whom citizens feel they can trust their children. “Mr. Coursey took that trust and crushed it,” he said.
Donahue said Coursey should receive more than the minimum mandatory sentence because he took advantage of the victim’s troubled life.
Coursey claims the victim pursued him, Donahue said, but the victim claims he told her she was sexy, and touched her inappropriately on several occasions.
Donahue said Coursey also claimed on a drive to Wesley College he experienced feelings of doubt and guilt about the relationship. Donahue said on that same car ride, Coursey sent a text to the victim that read, “I can still smell you...."
“He made several bad decisions on a continuing basis,” Donahue said. “He took advantage of her.”
According to court documents, Coursey sent obscene photos of himself to the girl, and they started meeting at an off-school location in early January 2012. Court documents say the relationship turned physical in the parking lot of Delaware Technical Community College.
The two met several times in the weeks leading up to Coursey’s arrest at a pole barn where the teacher stored a travel trailer, documents state.
Before handing down the sentence, Graves told Coursey, “It really doesn’t make any difference whether your students are flirtatious.”
“When you were 22, she was born,” Graves said. He also noted the relationship was not a one-time mistake; Coursey met with the victim numerous times in secret.
Graves said Coursey has led a decent life until this point, with no criminal history, but to issue only the minimum mandatory sentence would depreciate his crime.
Graves also said the victim spent eight days at Dover Behavioral Health as a result of the crime. “She went into an institution,” Graves said. “She was vulnerable.”
Coursey was sentenced to five years in prison. After his release, he must serve 11 years probation and complete a mental-health evaluation and sexual offender counseling. Coursey was ordered to have no contact with the victim, her family or anyone under 18 who is not his own child or stepchild.
Coursey was then handcuffed. As Capitol Police led him out of the courtroom, he turned to his wife, sitting in the gallery, and mouthed the words, “I love you.”
Coursey had worked at Sussex Tech for five years and was making $50,034.30 a year, according to information provided by the Sussex Technical School District; he was suspended with pay pending the completion of the investigation.
Graves prohibited Coursey from working as a teacher, coach or any position where he would have authority over children.