Former Howard County teacher Kirsten Ann Kinley pleaded guilty yesterday in Circuit Court to one count of third-degree sex offense for improper sexual conduct with a 15-year-old boy at her Columbia apartment more than two years ago.
Similar charges against her involving a second boy were dropped after he refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Neither youth was one of her students.
As part of a plea agreement, Kinley, 27, a former special-education teacher at Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, could receive up to 18 months in jail. She is to be sentenced Nov. 15.
"She's very depressed," said Thomas Morrow, her Towson-based attorney, outside the Howard County Circuit Courthouse in Ellicott City yesterday. "She's lost her teaching career. That was the focal point of her life. She's facing the unenviable task of being a convicted felon and registering as a sexual offender for the rest of her life."
In the courtroom, Kinley spoke softly as she gave brief answers to questions from Judge Diane O. Leasure. Her eyes appeared to tear up as the judge went over the details of the plea agreement.
A visibly shaken Kinley declined to comment afterward. She remains free on bond until her sentencing. She has been living with relatives in Virginia in recent months.
Kinley was the third Howard County high school teacher charged this year with having inappropriate contact with a minor. The two others are awaiting trial.
Yesterday's plea agreement prohibits Kinley from using the Internet, which she used to communicate with the boy.
At her sentencing, the prosecution is expected to ask that Kinley undergo an evaluation followed by sex-offender treatment and counseling and that she be prohibited from unsupervised contact with minors, said Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy.
Kinley was arrested Feb. 15 and accused of having sexual contact with the 15-year-old student in late 2004 and early 2005 while she was teaching at Hammond Middle School in the Laurel area. She originally was charged with two counts of third-degree sex offense, two counts of fourth-degree sex offense and two counts of solicitation of a minor.
In May, similar allegations were made against Kinley by a second male student. A grand jury indicted Kinley on three counts of third-degree sex offense involving that boy, who was age 14 when the incidents allegedly occurred in late 2004. That youth did not cooperate with investigators, making it impossible to prosecute Kinley on those charges, Murphy said.
Kinley acknowledged having sexual contact with the first boy, Morrow said. "She doesn't deny it and accepts her responsibility," Morrow said. "He was much younger than she thought. She engaged in conduct [for] which she is very remorseful."
However, Morrow said Kinley denied having an improper relationship with the second boy. "She absolutely denies that there was any sexual contact with him," Morrow said.
The Sun does not identify victims of sexual abuse or those who allege sexual abuse.
Kinley was arrested after the 15-year-old boy divulged his encounters with her to his therapist, who was legally required to tell authorities. Authorities learned about a second accuser while investigating the first allegations.
In both cases, Kinley and her accusers allegedly were introduced through a teenage friend, exchanged sexually explicit conversations on the Internet and had two sexual encounters at her Columbia apartment, according to court documents.
Kinley had been a special-education teacher in the Howard County school system ty since 2002 and had worked at Marriotts Ridge High since it opened in 2005. She was the adviser to the sophomore class and to a competitive dance group. Kinley was fired by the county Board of Education in May.
Alan Meade Beier, 52, who had taught chemistry and physics at River Hill High School, and Joseph Samuel Ellis, 25, formerly a history and government teacher at Glenelg High School, face sexual misconduct charges in separate incidents involving students. Each was arrested in January.
Ellis was fired by the school board in April. A motions hearing for Ellis is set for Oct. 31, and his trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 2.
Beier has appealed a recommendation that the school board terminate his employment. His motions hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Kinley's case follows some well-publicized incidents involving female teachers in the area.
In May 2001, Kimberly L. Merson, 24, a substitute teacher at Carroll County's Francis Scott Key High School, was arrested on multiple sex-related charges involving eight male students. She was sentenced to 18 months in jail after she pleaded guilty to four counts of felony sexual child abuse.
Four days after Merson's arrest, Tracie L. Mokry, 21, a student teacher at Francis Scott Key, was arrested and charged with felony child abuse after she invited seven male students to a home for a party. Prosecutors dropped the abuse charges, and she pleaded guilty to allowing an underage student to drink firstname.lastname@example.org