OMAHA, Neb. – A former Nebraska schoolteacher who fled to Mexico with a 13-year-old male student was returned Wednesday to her home state to face federal charges.
Kelsey Peterson was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Omaha. Her lawyer said she will plead not guilty.
The 25-year-old former Lexington teacher and the former student of hers were found in Mexicali, Mexico, on Nov. 2. The boy has told The Associated Press that he didn't consider Peterson his girlfriend but that they did have sex.
Peterson faces federal charges of crossing a border to have sex with a minor and state charges of kidnapping, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Prosecutors have said they ultimately expect Peterson to face charges in only one jurisdiction.
Peterson's attorney, James Martin Davis, said he met with Peterson on Wednesday at the Cass County jail, about 20 miles south of Omaha.
Davis said the federal charges, which carry a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine or both, were meant to curtail human trafficking across international borders.
"The only thing this girl might be guilty of is statutory rape," Davis said. "She may be guilty of something, but not these charges."
Davis said he planned to continue to challenge the boy's age, which would not affect the current charges but could negate statutory rape charges if Davis can show that the boy is 16 or older.
A birth certificate provided by the Mexican police officer who arrested Peterson shows that the boy is 13 years old.
Davis said Wednesday that the boy has inconsistently identified his own age and birthday. He said Peterson and others have told him that the boy has a 2-year-old son of his own.
The Associated Press had previously named the boy as police searched for him but stopped using his name in reports after authorities charged Peterson with a sex crime.