Alaska v. Jackson
Alaska Court of Appeals
776 P.2d 320 (1989)
Matthew Jackson (defendant) was a 27-year-old gymnastics teacher who had sexual intercourse five or six times and oral sex several other times with his 14-year-old student, M.S., over the course of three to four months. Jackson and M.S. had feelings for each other, and their sexual encounters never involved coercion or force. Jackson told M.S. that she should report what occurred between them. When M.S. made a report, Jackson acknowledged their relationship and took responsibility. M.S. reported that she was in love with Jackson and wanted to marry Jackson when she reached age 18. Jackson was charged with second-degree sexual abuse of a child, formerly known as statutory rape. This offense occurred if an offender who was 16 years old or older engaged in sexual intercourse with a minor who was either 13, 14, or 15 and was younger than the offender by at least three years. Second-degree sexual abuse of a child was punishable by up to 10 years’ incarceration, but no particular term was presumed for first-time offenders with no previous felony convictions. After a hearing, a judge focused on Jackson’s potential for rehabilitation, finding him contrite and remorseful. The judge took note of the fact that Jackson’s behavior arose from the affection between Jackson and M.S., which was both sincere and reciprocal. There was no indication that Jackson had ever engaged in this type of behavior with other children. The judge did not find that Jackson was a person with abnormal feelings toward children or that he was given to deviant sexual conduct. The judge believed that Jackson’s conduct with M.S. was situational and that Jackson was not likely to repeat such behavior. The judge placed little focus on mitigating circumstances. Therefore, the judge sentenced Jackson to a suspended sentence of three years in jail. Jackson was placed on probation for three years and required to undergo counseling for sexual offenders and to complete 1,000 hours of community service. Alaska appealed, arguing that the sentence did not reflect the seriousness of the offense or accommodate the sentencing goal of community condemnation.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Bryner, C.J.)
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