Daniels to serve 3.5 years, lifetime probation for sex with student

Emili Kay Daniels

Emili Kay Daniels

CAMP VERDE -- Emili Kay Daniels, a former Cottonwood charter school teacher from Camp Verde, will serve 3.5 years in the state prison for her plea of sexual conduct with a minor. When released, Daniels will be on a lifetime supervised probation for her guilty pleas to three counts of attempted sexual conduct.

In sentencing the 34-year-old mother of two Tuesday, the judge said that Daniels could have contact with her own children, but with no other minors younger than 18.

Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley said Tuesday the defendant received a wealth of letters to help mitigate the sentence in addition to the fact that she has no prior criminal record. She also cited a psychologist's belief that the teacher is "not a predator" and has a "low chance of recidivism."

Ainley told Daniels that the crime would have been a Class 6 felony had she not been a teacher, in which case the sex crime is a Class 2 felony, punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison.

During her initial plea, the judge told the woman she expected the sentence to run no longer than the presumptive term of five years, but, in fact, gave her a mitigated sentence.

As the scheduled sentencing began, the prosecution opened with a statement from the victim's grandmother, who with her husband, have been the boy's guardians. She presented a lengthy account of the events between Daniels and her grandson. as she said were told to her.

The 45-minute long description of the affair between the boy, who was 17 at the time but is now 18, caused her public defender Robert Gundacker to protest to the judge, saying that the sentencing was not scheduled as a mitigation hearing and that proceeding should be delayed to allow preparation of the appropriate mitigation for Daniels.

He said, "that was the longest victim's witness statement I have heard in my career."

Gundacker said, at points in the presentation, the defendant told him, "that's not true."

The defense attorney and prosecutor argued points of statute before Judge Ainley eventually satisfied Gundacker that the statement by the boy's grandmother would not be considered for the value of new evidence in the case, but to show how it affected the boy's behavior, health and well-being.

The woman said the encounters began after the teen confided to Daniels about a crumbling relationship with his girlfriend in the 11th grade. The teacher comforted the boy and kissed him on the cheek frequently. He began calling her 'mom.'

The grandmother said that the teacher and the student half her age had sex two or three times a week, three times in her vehicle on a deserted road near his home.

She said the teacher convinced the boy to get his own cell phone in order to have more secure communications. The woman said phone records show that the two exchanged 4,000 text messages and 150 hours of conversation on the calls.

He reportedly told his grandmother that she would "text poetry and scriptures" to the teen.

The boy told her that at one point the couple had a wedding in her classroom and later she told him she was pregnant with his child, but had a miscarriage after about four weeks.

She said then he turned sullen and was "not happy, not smiling." He was working toward his Eagle Scout badge but suddenly wanted to drop out; he wasn't honest and would steal from his grandparents and changed his mind about serving on a mission.

When the grandparents made arrangements for a counselor, Daniels is reported to have told him how to "play mind games" with the counselor.

She says now the boy can no longer attend the school, in order not to be condemned by classmates and faculty, he could not attend his junior or senior prom or graduate from the school.

Daniels, in inmate orange, with her short hair tied back, bounced her foot repeatedly on the floor and her body shook throughout the statement.

Ainley told Daniels at the sentencing that she was in a position of trust and took advantage of it. The judge said it was a sad circumstance and advised that "had she taken advantage of counseling while in high school, this might not have happened."

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