You can’t have sex with students. And if you break that rule and you do it… YOU aren’t the one who is the victim.
That’s the message being sent after a former Arizona teacher was sentenced to 20 years in prison for doing just that.
We’re talking about Brittany Zamora, who is a former teacher in Arizona.
And the 20 year sentence is actually the lowest possible sentence allowed for her crime, which she admitted to after pleading guilty to molesting a 13-year-old student. She’ll also be on probation for the rest of her life and has to register as a sex offender. She’s being given credit for the 478 days she’s already served behind bars.
“I am a good and genuine person who made a mistake and regret it deeply,” Zamora said in a statement.
It was made at a Maricopa County Superior Court hearing Friday morning.
“I lived my life respecting and trying to obey every law. I’m not a threat to society.”
Zamora apologized to the victims, their families and her own family. She said she wants to attend counseling and she told Judge Sherry Stephens that her actions were out of character, and that she plans on working on a new degree in prison so she can start a new career when she’s released.
There was a different message given outside the courtroom, however.
In a statement read by her attorney, Zamora blamed the child she sexually abused, and painted herself as the victim.
“This was not between a young child and Brittany — this was a teenager,” attorney Belen Olmeda Guerra said during a news conference after the hearing.
The 28-year-old Zamora former Las Brisas Academy elementary teacher made international headlines since she was arrested more than a year ago for molesting one student and, according to authorities, grooming another.
The teacher was arrested after the parents of one of her sixth grade students found disturbing texts on his phone.
“OMG, I love you,” one text from the teacher to the victim read, according to court documents.
In another, she wrote:
“Omg lol you’re so cute baby.”
In another, she wrote:
“If I could quit my job and _____ you all day I would.”
She and the 13-year-old started chatting on an online instruction app called Class Craft.
Police say shortly after she sent nudes to him. After, the teen told officers he and his teacher had at least four sexual encounters in 2018, including once in her car after a talent show.
He said that during another incident, she asked another student to stand guard so she could make out with the victim at school while they prepared for said talent show.
The student told police she got bolder and the two would touch each other sexually in the classroom as the rest of the class watched videos.
Police released recorded interviews earlier this year that had both the victim and the boy she asked to stand guard.
“I was one of the witnesses, one of the people that saw Ms. Zamora and my friend … touch each other,” the friend said, adding that he was told to keep the whole thing secret.
Before her arrest, the victim’s parents called Zamora in a recorded phone call, where she apologized and could not explain the alleged abuse.
“I ask myself the same question,” Zamora told them. “I just got really close after I think everything went down and we’re like, ‘How could that happen?’ … We just got close.”
In court, Zamora’s mother begged the judge to give her daughter the shortest sentence possible. She lost it as the victims’ parents told her they hope she never gets to become a mother.
“Ms. Zamora lures these boys, earns their trust and then takes advantage of them purely to fill her own sexual desires,” said one woman.
She was the mother of the boy Zamora asked to stand watch while she had sex with another student said in court.
“She used her position of power to molest a child. She’s a pedophile and no different than if a man were sitting in her place right now.”
The only reason Zamora stopped was because she was caught, said Maricopa County Prosecutor Lacey Fisher.
“If a (parent) hadn’t discovered what was happening, there’s little doubt there would have been more victims in the defendant’s considerable wake,” Fisher said.
In June, Zamora took a plea deal in which she pleaded guilty to sexual conduct with a minor, attempted molestation of a minor and public sexual indecency. Before taking that deal, she was facing 15 felony counts, including eight counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and a slew of other charges.
In the minimum term sentencing, Judge Stephens considered a number of different factors.
One was her lack of criminal history. Another was the fact that screenings indicated she was unlikely to re-offend.
Judge Stephens also said aggravating circumstances included the fact that Zamora violated and abused her position of trust and tried to conceal the crimes.
“I find the circumstances of the offenses to be especially aggravating,” Stephens said.
If given the maximum sentence, she would have been locked up for 44 years.
Neither of the young victims were present in the courtroom Friday, but an attorney for the boy who was molested read a statement from his mother.
“Before, he was an innocent child, and now she stole his innocence from him,” the victim impact statement read. “I hate Brittany Zamora for what she did to my son and family. We should not suffer for someone else’s sick pleasure, but we all are.”
The victims’ parents had all raised concerns that Zamora would get a lighter sentence. Why? Because she is a young and attractive woman.
The parents of the abused boy pushed for the maximum sentence.
“Now you’ll spend the rest of your youth and most of your adulthood in jail,” the boy’s father wrote in a statement. “My son will grow up, have a good life, get married and have children of his own. I will not allow you to interfere in my son’s life further. Good triumphs over evil.”
The 20-year sentence was what Zamora’s attorneys and family asked for.
Her attorney said she didn’t have a criminal background. He also said a psycho-sexual evaluation that determined she had no sexual interest in children. He pointed out that it showed she suffered from anxiety and depression.
Zamora’s mother is Darlene Irwin. She said to the court that the real monsters in the case are the media and the public, all of whom “made Zamora seem more predatory than she was”.
“Please understand this is not a monster. This is a beautiful person with the kindest heart ever,” Irwin said.
She pointed out that Zamora had been prom queen.
By the time she’s released from prison, Zamora will likely be in her late 40s.
She most likely won’t ever be able to teach again. That’s because she already surrendered her teaching certificate, and to get a new in Arizona, she would have to submit to a criminal background check.
The victim’s mother said the plea deal was far too lenient.
“She should never have children,” she said. “She should never be close to children, even in her own family. … As written, Brittany Zamora will not even be 50 when she leaves prison. I hold out few hopes that she will have truly reformed by then. I think she suffers from a mental sickness that will never go away. Society should be protected from her.”
According to the other, her son has struggled in the year since Zamora was arrested.
He changed schools in the months following, and she said he’s experienced difficulty sleeping and headaches in addition to wandering thoughts, depressed feelings and anxiety.
“I am emotionally devastated and sick at heart and devastated by worry,” the mother wrote. “I fear and mourn for my son, whose childhood ended too soon.”
She requested Zamora be ordered to cover the cost of her son’s counseling fees.
Shortly after the sentencing, Guerra held a news conference where Zamora’s mother and a family friend stood silently behind her. She suggested Zamora was seduced by the underage victim and stressed that he was a technically a teenager.
She also ignored the fact that the age of consent in Arizona is 17.
On top of that, Guerra blamed Las Brisas Academy Principal Dickey. She said he ignored Zamora’s requests to move the victim to another class because the victim had “boundary issues” and was “obsessed” with his teacher.
“I can truly say that I have been unfairly treated by the state of Arizona,” Zamora said in her statement. “It is shocking to me how others are so quick to judge after hearing accusations and only one side of the story. I feel like I was used as a publicity act to gain attention that was often driven by money and motivation from several parties.”
Of course Guerra denied that she was blaming the 13-year-old. She also denied that she was calling a Zamora a victim when questioned about the accusations directly.
Russ Richelsoph is an attorney for the victim’s father and step-mother, and said they were beyond shocked by the comments.
“To go into court and argue a client is remorseful during a sentencing hearing and to hold a press conference hours later blaming it on the victim indicates she’s not truly remorseful,” Richelsoph said.
He pointed out it’s a big problem.
“Her statement today just punctuates the fact that she has an attitude toward children that is dangerous and makes her a danger to society,” he added.
The victim’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Zamora’s husband, Daniel, and Liberty Elementary School District.
It charged that Dickey was aware of rumors for more than a month before the sexual abuse was revealed, and accused Daniel Zamora of failing to alert authorities after he learned of the ongoing molestation.
He recently settled that suit for an undisclosed amount of money.
The lawsuit against Liberty Elementary School District is still underway.
It claims three students in Zamora’s class reported inappropriate behavior to Dickey in written statements in early February 2018, who apparently later interviewed the students and lectured them on the dangers of rumors. The suit alleges he never referring the matter to police or alerted the boy’s parents.
Zamora was awarded “Teacher of the Year” in 2016.