Former Basalt teacher pleads guilty to 1 count of sexual assault on a child after relationship with student
A former Basalt High School choir director pleaded guilty Tuesday to having a sexual relationship with a male student who was a minor during a six-month stretch in 2019 as part of a plea bargain announced in Garfield County District Court.
Brittany von Stein pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a class four felony. Four counts of sexual assault on a child showing a pattern were dismissed, according to Zac Parsons, an assistant attorney with the 9th Judicial District’s office and defense attorney Michael Fox.
“I want to take responsibility for my actions and spare everyone the damage of a trial,” von Stein said in court.
She was able to call in for the proceeding because few in-person hearings are being held due to the coronavirus crisis. Von Stein, 27, remains out of jail on bond.
Garfield County District Judge James Boyd scheduled sentencing for Sept. 16. He ordered von Stein to contact the probation office to schedule a pre-sentencing investigation and a psychosexual evaluation, the results of which could influence her sentence.
Boyd explained to von Stein that the sentence for her offense isn’t as cut and dried as for other crimes.
“With this kind of offense, we have what’s called an indeterminate length of time, which means there would be a lowest level of time in prison and a maximum time in prison,” Boyd said. “Here, the prison sentence, if you were sentenced to prison, at the low of the indeterminate range would be two years to 12 years. The maximum time in prison would be the rest of your life.”
She could also be fined between $2,000 and $500,000, Boyd said.
He asked von Stein a series of questions to determine if she understood the procedure and if she was pleading guilty of her free will. Von Stein affirmed she was willfully pleading guilty and realized the ramifications. She sounded composed while speaking.
Parsons summarized the facts of the case by saying von Stein engaged in a sexual relationship with a student she was teaching.
“While being a music teacher, she began to give some lessons to one student in particular, who was under the age of 18,” Parsons said. “They developed a relationship. Ultimately Ms. von Stein invited him over to her house where they engaged in sexual intercourse on multiple occasions in the January to June timeframe in 2019.”
Von Stein was arrested at her house in Carbondale on Sept. 4. An arrest affidavit filed by a Basalt police officer assisting on the case indicated that sexually explicit texts sent by von Stein to the student helped advance the investigation.
The police officer learned that the victim’s friends read the texts while the victim was asleep at an overnight gathering. One of the victim’s friends told the officer “they saw messages from Ms. von Stein talking about kissing and sex,” according to the affidavit.
The victim’s friends quizzed him about the texts the following morning. He admitted he was having an ongoing sexual relationship with the teacher but asked the other boys to “keep it a secret,” the affidavit said.
Once the officer learned of the relationship, the victim’s smart phone was confiscated as evidence.
The affidavit also indicated von Stein attempted to cover her tracks. She went to the Basalt High School principal to report that one of her students had kissed her during a private vocal lesson in January 2019.
“Ms. von Stein disclosed (to school administrators) she had been hearing rumors accusing her of having sex with (the student),” said the affidavit from September 2019.
The administrators reported the incident to Basalt police and asked them to launch an investigation, which occurred the next day on Aug. 15.
The victim allegedly denied having sex with the teacher when first contacted. He later acknowledged being with her, the affidavit said.
Von Stein was a highly regarded choir and music teacher in the Basalt public school system. She was credited with a drastic increase the number of students enrolled in the choir and music programs at the high school and middle school. She received the 2018 Outstanding Young Educator Award from the Colorado Music Educators Association.
Von Stein was placed on leave early in the 2019-20 school year and replaced when she was unable to meet conditions necessary to return to her positive, Roaring Fork School District officials said at the time.
Von Stein’s plea deal didn’t include a specified recommendation for a sentence.
“There are no sentencing concessions,” Parsons said.
Fox will argue for the lowest possible sentence. He said he would have a presentation that will take roughly two hours at the September sentencing hearing. Parsons said his presentation would take no more than 45 minutes. He was uncertain if the victim in the case wants to speak at the hearing.
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