FARMINGTON -- A former Bountiful Junior High teacher went from the possibility of spending the rest of her life in prison to now facing up to 30 years.
Valynne Asay Bowers, 41, agreed to a plea deal Monday and pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony. Bowers admitted to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy who was once her student.
Bowers faces up to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced April 4.
Bowers' hearing in 2nd District Court in Farmington in front of Judge John R. Morris was delayed two hours as the defense and prosecution finalized the deal.
"We were never willing to agree to a first-degree felony," said Bowers' defense attorney Rich Gallegos, who blamed the victim's act of instigating the sexual relationship as the reason the inappropriate relationship started.
Bowers, who walked past reporters Monday without speaking, was originally charged with eight first- degree felonies: five counts of rape and three counts of forcible sodomy.
With the defense wanting charges of a third-degree felony, and the prosecution arguing for first-degree felonies, Gallegos said a second-degree felony was "middle of the road."
"The bottom line is we're still confident that when the sentence comes out, that she will be held accountable," said Deputy Davis County Attorney Rick Westmoreland.
The two sides still differ about the upcoming sentence. While the prosecution wants the mandatory 15 years per charge, totaling 30 years, Gallegos wants probation for Bowers. He said that, with the lack of a prior criminal record and her completion of therapy, she has taken big strides and deserves probation. He also said he had received a lot of letters of support from her former students and their parents.
"She's one of the nicest people I've ever met," Gallegos said.
Gallegos said the defense had filed motions to see if certain evidence dealing with the actions of the victim would be admissible in court.
"We wanted to show his pattern of grooming the older women to do this," Gallegos said.
Bowers is the second teacher accused of having sex with the same student. The other teacher, Linda Nef, who taught social studies, had sex with him in 2008 when the boy was 13. Nef, 47, is now serving three years to life in Utah State Prison.
However, Gallegos said their attempt to bring the victim's background into the court was unsuccessful.
Westmoreland said the victim and his family are pleased with the plea agreement.
"The idea behind it was to hold Bowers accountable for what she did, and also make an attempt to keep the victim from undergoing any further public ridicule or stress that would go with coming to trial," Westmoreland said. "We've been in contact with the victim's attorney over the past six months to a year, and they've always been of the opinion that they want to have her held accountable but really didn't want to have to have him testify again like he had to in the preliminary hearing."
During a preliminary hearing in 2009, the victim admitted that he initiated contact with Bowers in December 2008 when he went to her after-school math study sessions. There, he got Bowers' phone number and began texting her.
The relationship became sexual in January 2009, and the boy started giving Bowers guitar lessons at her home, where they had sex every Friday night, until the end of February 2009.
Westmoreland said that people may think Bowers got a better deal compared to Nef. However, he said, there were other factors to consider. The biggest was that the victim was 13 when he was involved with Nef, and 14 when he was involved with Bowers.
"Under our statute that makes a very big difference, that one year," Westmoreland said.