A former area assistant principal accused in 2018 of having sexual contact with a student entered an Alford plea Tuesday in Ste. Genevieve County, receiving two years of unsupervised probation as part of a plea bargain.
Elizabeth “Beth” Giesler, a former assistant principal for Ste. Genevieve High School, appeared in court where she entered an Alford plea to one count of second-degree harassment, receiving a sentence of two years of unsupervised probation on the condition that she voluntarily surrender all of her teaching credentials.
In entering an Alford plea, Giesler did not admit guilt to the charge but acknowledged there was potentially sufficient evidence to find her guilty should the case go to trial.
Giesler was originally charged in May 2018 with three counts of Class E felony sexual contact with a student, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, and two counts of second-degree statutory rape.
The charges were filed after the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Division of Drug and Crime Control was called in for a special investigation.
When the allegations were made, the victim — a then-16-year-old male student — had been staying with Gieser and her family at their residence. A friend of the victim reportedly told school officials that the victim disclosed that he had sexual contact with Gieser, according to Ste. Genevieve County Prosecuting Attorney Wayne Williams.
Williams said the victim had initially denied having sexual contact with Gieser. However, according to the MSHP probable cause statement, on May 18, 2018, the student told an officer that Giesler had performed a sexual act on him at her residence in Ste. Genevieve County between April 7-8, 2018, during the Riverdog baseball tournament.
He also reportedly said they engaged in sexual intercourse and sexual acts twice between April and May 2018. These incidents were also alleged to have occurred at her residence.
MSHP Spokesperson Juston Wheetley said their investigation was turned over to the prosecutor, and an arrest warrant was issued based on their investigation results. Giesler was arrested and booked on the charges on May 18, 2018, posting a $20,000 bond the same day.
During a preliminary hearing, before the case was bound over to circuit court, one of the criminal counts against Giesler was dismissed. Williams said the count was dismissed because the victim’s testimony did not support the charge.
The remaining charges were bound over to the circuit court level on Oct. 26, 2018. A jury trial was set to take place in April; however, a plea bargain was accepted wherein Giesler would plead to second-degree harassment and give up her four teaching certifications.
Williams said that he took several factors into account when deciding whether or not to agree to a plea deal.
“As a prosecuting attorney, I’m considering several things,” said Williams. “Number one was the fact that the defendant doesn’t have any prior criminal history whatsoever.
“I also took into consideration in extending this recommendation on misdemeanor harassment that it was conditioned upon her giving up her teaching credentials,” he said. “...And part of my thinking on that was, ‘OK, I’m trying to help this victim and looking at helping other potential victims if she remained in her employment status.’ I think that it was a priority for me as a prosecuting attorney looking at other potential victims she might encounter.”
Williams went on to say that he always thinks about the safety of the community. He said he thought it was a good balance as she will never be allowed to teach in Missouri schools again.
“Some people might not understand the bargain that was struck in this case unless they really understand what she had to give up voluntarily to get that bargain," Williams explained. “That was basically her livelihood, and she had to surrender that.”
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com
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