A former California high school teacher was sentenced to probation after allegedly sleeping with one of his students.
Craig Branstetter, who once taught math at Dos Palos High School, was arrested in January 2016 after the victim told police she had sex with Branstetter three times in his car, KFSN-TV reported, citing a police report.
The former teacher also allegedly sent sexually explicit photos to the student, who told police she sent him photos of her stomach after she would exercise.
Branstetter, who was the victim’s math teacher at the time, actively pursued the girl through social media, according to the Los Banos Enterprise. The victim also claimed her teacher pursued her through physical contact both during and after school, and he also gave her credit for missing assignments.
In January of last year, Dos Palos Police Chief Barry Mann told the Enterprise Branstetter “was highly regarding by many of the students and the professionals in the community, including myself.”
Branstetter initially pleaded not guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor and sending harmful material, KFSN reported, but he later changed it to a “no contest plea” which sparked immediate probation.
Merced County Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt told the news station that Branstetter’s sentence “is a fair disposition for this case.”
The former teacher’s attorney, Jeff Hammerschmidt, said that even though his client was only sentenced to probation, it “does not mean they got off easy.”
“The reality is for a felony probation, a person can do a year in jail. There’s numerous restrictions on the person’s freedom, just because someone gets probation does not mean they got off easy,” Hammerschmidt told KFSN.
Hammerschmidt added Branstetter will not have to register as a sex offender as part of his plea deal, and the sheriff’s office plans to decide if Branstetter will serve time in jail or be electronically monitored.
It’s not clear how long Branstetter was sentenced to probation.