Former English teacher Melinda Dennehy admitted sending nude photos of herself to a student, but she won't spend a day in jail for her actions.
In a plea deal negotiated with prosecutors, the former Londonderry High School teacher, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure and agreed to surrender her teaching certificate.
"I am truly sorry for my actions and poor judgment," Dennehy told the court. "I wish the student and his family well."
Dennehy appeared in Derry District Court Monday morning to plead guilty to a Class A misdemeanor count of indecent exposure. She was given a 12-month suspended sentence, and had her teaching certification suspended indefinitely.
As a result of the plea agreement, the original felony charge against Dennehy was dropped to a misdemeanor. The felony charge carried a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.
The reduced charge also means Dennehy won't have to register as a sex offender. State law requires a person to be convicted of two misdemeanor-level indecent exposure charges before they are considered a sex offender.
Dennehy, 41, of Hampstead was arrested on March 5. Police said she started sending nude pictures of herself to a 15-year-old student earlier in the year and sent him continuous text messages, some saying she wanted to perform sex acts on him.
Dennehy also kissed the student on two occasions in a classroom at the school, according to a police affidavit.
She had her court date rescheduled on several occasions before her guilty plea yesterday, as she worked toward an agreement with prosecutors.
Londonderry police prosecutor Kevin Coyle said the victim and his family were pleased with the agreement.
"We had been discussing it with all the parties involved," Coyle said. "It came to be all the parties wanted to put this behind them, and this is the resolution we came up with that everyone agreed was fair."
The suspension of Dennehy's teaching certification will last at least two years, but likely much longer, Coyle said.
"That is ultimately up to the Department of Education, but it is my understanding she will not be able to get it back," he said.
A call to the state Department of Education's Bureau of Credentialing was not returned.
Dennehy's 12-month suspended sentence is contingent upon two years of good behavior. She also cannot have any contact with the victim or his family.
Three years after completing all the terms of her sentence, Dennehy could petition to have the conviction annulled, which would wipe it from her record almost completely.
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