Former Howard County teacher Kirsten Ann Kinley told the judge at her sentencing hearing yesterday that she was sorry she had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy at her Columbia apartment more than two years ago.
"I want to apologize for the pain anybody had to suffer because of these actions," said a soft-spoken Kinley, who cried throughout the hour-long hearing. "I want the opportunity to become a productive citizen."
Howard County Circuit Court Judge Diane O. Leasure sentenced Kinley, 27, to three years in prison, with 18 months suspended, which means she is to serve 18 months at the county detention center.
She was arrested Feb. 15 and accused of having improper contact with the student in late 2004 and early 2005 while she was teaching at Hammond Middle School in the Laurel area.
Kinley pleaded guilty in August to one count of third-degree sex offense. The plea agreement prohibits her from any contact with the boy and requires her to seek treatment and counseling and to register as sex offender. She is prohibited from access to the Internet, which she used to communicate with the boy.
"She was a responsible adult, yet she carried out this crime," Leasure said. "Incarceration is appropriate."
Thomas Morrow, Kinley's Towson-based attorney, said Kinley plans to ask Leasure to allow her to serve the sentence under house arrest and in a work-release program rather than at the detention center.
Kinley had faced additional charges involving a second boy, which were dropped after he refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Neither youth was one of her students.
She had been a special-education teacher in the Howard County school system since 2002 and had worked at Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville since it opened in 2005. She was the adviser to the sophomore class and to a competitive dance group.
The Howard County Board of Education fired her in May.
Morrow said he feared for Kinley's well-being while incarcerated.
"She has kidney failure that she has been dealing with for years," he said. "She has substantial mental health issues. Depression is the most immediate."
Kinley had been living with relatives in Virginia in recent months. She was unable to find employment, and spent most of her time volunteering, Morrow said.
A woman who identified herself as Kinley's cousin was the only family member in the Ellicott City courtroom yesterday. Kinley became estranged from most of her family after her arrest, Morrow has said.
Kinley was the third Howard County high school teacher charged this year with having inappropriate contact with minors. The two others -- 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 -- are awaiting trials.