A former track and soccer coach at Mercy High School in Baltimore pleaded guilty to carrying on a sexual relationship with a student and received a suspended prison sentence.
The victim’s family feels stunned that Ernest Jackson was permitted to go home, their attorney said.
Under the terms of his Dec. 16 plea, Jackson, 31, of Rosedale, will not serve time in prison. He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault and received a suspended sentence of 10 years with three years of probation, according to court records. Jackson declined to comment through his public defender.
The attorney for the girl’s family called his sentence a slap on the wrist.
“The family is outraged that Mr. Jackson did not get any jail time,” attorney Steve Heisler said. “This is a person in a position of authority, a teacher, a coach, having sex with a 14-year-old and he gets to walk out of the courtroom. They just can’t wrap their heads around that.”
Baltimore Circuit Judge Lynn Stewart Mays handed down the sentence. She did not return a message.
A spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office said the plea offer was made in consultation with the family.
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“It is rather unfortunate but the statement from the civil attorney for the victim’s family could not be further from the truth,” wrote Zy Richardson, a spokeswoman for the office, in an email. “The victim’s family were not only informed and present at every stage of the process, including court proceedings, but approved the offer made by our office prior to our recommendation to the court. In fact, it was the family’s expressed concerns of the victim’s fragility and other undisclosed circumstances that led to our recommendation to the court.”
In late 2018, police charged Jackson with more than two-dozen sex offenses after students at the all-girls Catholic school in North Baltimore reported a sexual relationship between Jackson and a classmate. Police wrote in charging documents that the victim told them she had been sexually involved with Jackson over the past two years. She told her friends about their encounters, saying she and Jackson had a “friends with benefits” relationship, police wrote.
The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of sex crimes.
The victim told police they would meet in the equipment room of the high school. Officers wrote that Jackson also came to her neighborhood late one night and sold her marijuana.
Jackson worked as a part-time coach for Mercy’s track and soccer teams.
“We continue to be deeply saddened by this matter and have been grateful for the prayerful support of our community,” wrote Lauren Traskey, a school spokeswoman, in an email. “We ask for continued respect for student privacy. We urge anyone who has knowledge of any child abuse to immediately contact the Baltimore City Police.”