DCS teacher guilty of sex with student must pay school system $100,000

April 12 – A former Decatur High teacher who was on paid administrative leave for more than two years before resigning and then pleading guilty last year to having sex with a student has been ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to schools in Decatur City, according to Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson.

Anderson said the school system was a victim in the case. Carrie Cabri Witt, 48, of Decatur, pleaded guilty in March 2021 to one count of a school employee engaging in a sexual act with a student under 19. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a second charge.

A statement from Decatur City Schools said this would be the first case in the state where a former teacher has been ordered to repay the cost of salary and benefits paid in a legal proceeding.

“Anyone directly or indirectly affected (in a criminal act) is defined as a victim,” Anderson said Monday afternoon. “The school system has been directly impacted.”

He said it was his “ultimate decision” as county attorney to pursue restitution for Decatur City schools. “I want this to be an eye opener for people who abuse children,” he said.

Witt was placed on paid administrative leave after her arrest in March 2016 and she resigned in August 2018, the day before her due process hearing before the Decatur School Board.

At a sentencing hearing on July 1, Morgan County Circuit Judge Jennifer Howell handed down a 10-year sentence for Witt, split into three years — 18 months in the Department of Corrections and 18 months in a community correctional program – with the remainder of the sentence of three years probation. She also had to register as a sex offender.

During this hearing, a male victim said that the sexual encounter was consensual and that “the crime does not correspond to the sentence”.

Anderson said the restitution agreement provides for Witt to receive six less months of incarceration and serve the remainder of her sentence in Morgan County Jail, where she has been since her conviction. He said she would be released on June 30.

He said the actual amount paid by the school system to Witt for salary and benefits is slightly more than the agreed-upon $100,000.

Anderson added: “No claims were made by either of the (male) victims. I took the claim to the Schools Court.”

In a written statement, Decatur City Schools said the restitution agreement was unique.

“To our knowledge, Mr. Anderson is the only district attorney in the state to seek and seek restitution on behalf of the school system as part of the sentencing request. Restitution, in this case, reimburses the school system for wages and benefits paid to the former employee during the legal proceedings,” the statement read.

Superintendent Michael Douglas did not return calls seeking comment on Monday.

Anderson said Witt must pay the full $100,000 by June 15 or “the deal is off.”

Calls to Witt’s attorneys Robert Tuten and Nick Heatherly were not returned Monday afternoon.

Witt was arrested in March 2016 after a Decatur police investigation and charged with two counts of having sex with a student under 19 and released after posting bond. One student was 17 when the physical relationship began and the other was 18, police said.

The range of penalties for the Class B felony is two to 20 years in prison.

Lawyers for Witt had argued in court papers that the 2010 law under which their client was charged — prohibiting a school employee from engaging in a sexual act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student — was unconstitutional. They said there are laws to protect those unable to give consent due to age, mental impairment, physical incapacity and in cases of coercion or fraud.

Under state law, Witt’s attorneys wrote, anyone without a specified disability who is at least 16 years old is capable of consenting to sex.

Lawyers for the Morgan County Attorney’s Office and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office argued that the law was constitutional and necessary to protect students from sexual advances by school employees.

Retired Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson heard arguments from both sides and in 2017 dismissed the charges against Witt. The state appealed, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Thompson’s decision and ordered that the charges be reinstated against Witt.

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Jeremy S. McLain