A former Pee Dee math teacher charged with having sex with a then-14 year-old male student will serve at least two years in prison.
Judge Larry Hyman sentenced Carole Ann Hope, 38, to ten years in prison with all but two years suspended. After she's released from prison, Hope will serve five years probation and be listed on the sex offender registry for the rest of her life.
Hope taught at New Heights Middle School in Chesterfield County until her arrest in November, 2011.
Arrest warrants say Hope had sexual relations on several occasions with the student at her home in Hartsville, near a high school in Chesterfield County and in an Horry County hotel. The warrants say the incidents happened between March 1 and October 31, 2011.
Hope pleaded guilty in Horry County court Wednesday to Criminal Sexual Conduct with a minor, second degree.
Hope is married, but told Judge Hyman she is separated from her husband. She also has a 7 year-old son.
In tears, Hope told the judge she was sorry she had hurt many people, especially her son.
"I am so sorry that I've disappointed so many people, and I really would like mercy and leniency from the court, please," Hope said.
The mother of the teenage boy Hope is accused of having sex with told the judge she would be satisfied with whatever punishment he would hand down in the case. She also asked the judge to consider Hope's son in making his decision.
Assistant Horry County solicitor Martin Spratlin says he believes the act of forgiveness from the victim's mother swayed Hyman's decision to give Hope no more than two years of active prison time. Hope faced a potential 20 years in prison on the charges.
"I think the victim's family showed a lot of courage in there today," Spratlin said. "I think that weighed heavily on the judge's mind in making his decision. I envy their ability to forgive."
Hope's lawyer agreed the victim's forgiveness of her son's abuser played a role in the decision.
"I think it was a very fair sentence based upon what was discussed in court and but for the mother asking for mercy of the victim, I don't think the judge would have sentenced as he did," said attorney Billy Monckton.
Monckton told NewsChannel 15 there was no excuse for her actions.
"There really is no defense to what she did. It's inexcusable conduct and with our teachers, we expect something better. She readily admitted that from day one when confronted with it," Monckton said.
Monckton said Hope's teaching certificate has been suspended.