An Idaho teacher was acquitted Thursday of having sex with a teenage boy, who her defense team claimed was lying to help his mother win a lawsuit against the school district.
A jury found Nichole Noel Thiel, 48, not guilty of sexual battery with a teen. Thiel faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors alleged that Thiel had sex with the boy in late 2015 and early 2016 at her condominium. At the time of the alleged encounters, Thiel was a 46-year-old culinary arts teacher at Lake Pend Orielle High School in Sandpoint, while the student was 16.
The defense noted that the teen had admitted when questioned by police that having sex with one of his teachers was an item on his "bucket list." Attorney Michael Palmer also noted that the teen's mother had recently filed a claim against the Lake Pend Orielle School District.
"[The student] has a massive incentive to get her convicted," Palmer told the jury, according to the Coeur d'Alene Press.
Palmer also pointed out discrepancies in the teen's recounting of the sexual encounters at Thiel's condo. At one point, the defense attorney said that the condo's imitation balcony was too small and too inaccessible for the teen to step outside and smoke a cigarette, which he claimed he did.
Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall told the Coeur d'Alene Press that he accepted the verdict, but would follow up with the school's principal and the district's superintendent.
At the time of her arrest earlier this year, Thiel was vice principal and athletic director at the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy. She was placed on leave when the accusations came to light. It was not immediately clear whether she would be restored to that position.