By Peg and McEntee
SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A former Utah high school teacher who admitted to sexually abusing three teenage boys with whom she carried on relationships would serve at least two years, and up to three decades, in prison under a sentence handed down by a judge on Thursday.
Brianne Altice, 36, who taught English at Davis High School in suburban Salt Lake City, pleaded guilty in April to three counts of second-degree felony forcible sex abuse stemming from her contact with the three youths in 2013 and 2014.
One of the youths was 16 at the time, and the two others were 17. The age of sexual consent in Utah is 18.
Each count carries a prison term of one to 15 years. Judge Thomas Kay ordered two of the sentences to be served consecutively, with the third to run concurrently with the first two.
That means Altice would serve at least two years before becoming eligible for parole, but could end up behind bars for up to 30 years, the statutory maximum for a non-life case under Utah law, Davis County prosecutors said.
Technically, the consecutive sentence ruling is a recommendation to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, but the board generally follows the judge's determination, according to prosecutors.
Altice was placed on administrative leave by the Davis School District after her arrest in 2013 and was fired in February of this year, district officials have said.
Standing before the judge in striped orange jail garb as she tearfully asked for leniency before being sentenced, Altice said, "I'm human and I messed up during a very vulnerable point in my life."
But the mother of one of the boys told the judge her son and the two other youths had suffered emotional and psychological damage, contrary to a societal double standard that often disregards the consequences of a female teacher having sex with male students.
"I can tell you, unequivocally, that these boys are victims," the mother, who was not identified in court to protect her son's identity, said in her statement, as quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper.
In sentencing Altice to prison, the judge said he intended to send a message. "I have to say to society, when a female or a male teacher does this to children, this is going to happen," the Tribune quoted him as saying.
(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman and Victoria Cavaliere in LOS ANGELES; Editing by Christopher Cushing)