Redfern sentenced in sex, bond violation cases
August 15, 2012
EAGLE, Colo. – A former teacher at Basalt High School potentially avoided additional jail time for having sexual relations with a male student, but she faces four years of supervised probation and treatment for sexual offenders, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Lauren K. Redfern, 25, of El Jebel, faced sentencing in two related cases – one stemming from the sex case and another for violating conditions of her bond after her arrest. Eagle County Judge Katharine Sullivan sentenced Redfern to 180 days in jail but suspended 150 days on the condition that she meet other requirements.
Redfern has been in the Eagle County Jail since July 17 after she voluntarily relinquished bond. She will get credit for the time served. Eagle County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory said after Tuesday afternoon’s sentencing hearing that Redfern will be released later this week depending on how many days she’s actually accumulated.
A remorseful Redfern apologized in court to the male victim, her own family, the community and teaching professionals. At least six of Redfern’s family members and friends were at the hearing. In a brief and tearful address, she said she brought “shame and dishonor” to her family and people who supported her.
“I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me,” Redfern said.
The judge opened her comments a moment later by saying, “Ah, this is a tough one, Ms. Redfern.”
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The saga is complex because Redfern initially reached a plea bargain that allowed her to avoid the most serious charge in the sex case and avoid registering as a sexual offender, then jeopardized the deal by violating conditions of her bond and getting arrested on new charges.
Redfern, a former teacher and coach at Basalt High School, was charged in February with two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, pattern of abuse. In a plea agreement in May, the District Attorney’s Office dropped those charges, and Redfern pleaded guilty to a felony charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Before a sentence was handed down in the case, Redfern received a citation from a National Park Service law enforcement officer at Lake Powell in Utah on June 10 for prohibited use of a weapon. Redfern was part of a group investigated on reports of loud partying, firing shotguns in a campground and scaring other campers, according to the park service.
On the bond-violation case, Redfern pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating a criminal protection order by possessing a firearm, a misdemeanor. In return, other, more serious charges related to the incident were dropped.
Mallory, the prosecutor in the case, contended that Redfern has “serious issues with boundary issues,” difficulty maintaining trust and an inability to stop inappropriate behavior. He sought 30 days in jail for the sex case and an additional 30 days in jail for the bond violation, as well as supervised probation.
Lawson Wills, Redfern’s co-counsel, asked that the 30 days of jail time in the two cases be concurrent rather than consecutive. He said Redfern has “significant emotional issues” that she acknowledges and intends to tackle.
“She has a very long road to go,” Wills said.
A pre-sentence report by the Eagle County Probation Department advised sentencing Redfern to counseling in programs administered through the Colorado Sexual Offenders Management Board. Wills said Redfern agreed to start that counseling.
“She can prove she’s not an ongoing risk to the community,” Wills said.
Sullivan said Redfern’s actions create a dilemma. Caretakers, such as teachers, have an obligation to make sure adolescents know the boundaries. Redfern didn’t do that with a male student who initiated sexual relations with her, Sullivan said.
The dilemma was exacerbated when Redfern left Colorado without permission from the probation office, attended a party at Lake Powell, where there were drugs and alcohol, and fired a gun.
That behavior, the judge said, makes her wonder if Redfern made a mistake with the student or whether she is prone to criminal behavior.
“It’s amazing you weren’t waking up every day saying, ‘I’m on bond on this case,'” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also noted that Redfern received “tons and tons of letters of support,” but none was written after the arrest for the bond violation. The implication was that other people also apparently questioned Redfern’s behavior, the judge indicated.
Responding to information in the pre-sentence report and from Wills, Sullivan said it appears that Redfern allows her emotions to dictate her actions. She said Redfern needs counseling to learn to think before she acts.
“Emotions are not excuses,” Sullivan said. “Those actions on emotions are going to land you in prison for a long time.”
Sullivan said Redfern’s “saving grace” was that she honored a bond condition to stay away from the victim in the case, who has turned 18, graduated from high school and plans to attend college.
The judge’s decision to suspend 150 days in jail had several related conditions in addition to four years of supervised probation and counseling in the Sexual Offenders Management Board program. Redfern must avoid any new violations of the law, avoid drugs and alcohol and pay $50 per month for her probation supervision.
In addition, Sullivan added two conditions that made the sentence unusual.
“I’ve never had an order like this before,” she said.
She ordered Redfern to attend 10 sessions of a 12-step recovery program within the next 75 days. The program is not related to Redfern’s personal consumption of alcohol or other substances. Sullivan said there isn’t enough evidence to presume that Redfern has a problem with drugs or alcohol, but her pre-sentence report indicated that there is alcoholism on her mother’s side of the family.
Sullivan also ordered Redfern to avoid any “special events” outside work and treatment. Sullivan explained that information indicates that Redfern gets overwhelmed by getting involved in too many events and activities, then acts on her emotions.
“I’m going to make it very easy to say ‘no'” to additional activities, Sullivan said.
The judge wished Redfern success in treatment and ended the hearing with a warning: “If you blow it, you’re looking at prison.”