A former assistant principal who was accused of engaging in sex acts with three male students at a Hemet high school pleaded guilty Monday to statutory rape and was sentenced to a year in jail and 36 months probation in a plea deal in which 11 other felony counts were dropped.
Erin Renee Henton, 45, could have faced more than 30 years in prison had she gone to trial and been convicted of seven counts of unlawful intercourse with a minor, four counts of oral copulation of a minor and one count of distributing pornographic material to a child.
As the defendant's preliminary hearing was about to get underway at Southwest Justice Center near Murrieta, the prosecution and defense informed Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dennis McConaghy that a plea agreement had been reached.
"We agreed to the plea after first consulting with the victims and their families," district attorney's spokesman John Hall told City News Service.
"Two of them agreed it was an appropriate disposition, and the third (victim) was unable to be contacted," Hall said. "The plea keeps the victims from having to go through testifying at a trial, and it also means that the defendant should never be able to teach or be a school administrator again."
Henton's attorney, Stephen Cline, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Under the deal, Henton pleaded guilty to statutory rape in exchange for the prosecution's agreement to drop the other charges. Henton's sentence prohibits her from being employed in any capacity that involves the supervision or care of minors.
The terms of the agreement, which McConaghy certified, also mandate that the defendant complete 25 sex addiction therapy classes between now and Aug. 29, 2014. For the duration of her probation, Henton must maintain status as a registered sex offender.
Under Penal Code section 290, anyone convicted of a variety of sexual offenses in California is required to register their address with law enforcement and notify authorities whenever they relocate.
According to Hemet police Lt. Duane Wisehart, the three boys, whose identities were not released, attended Tahquitz High School, where Henton served as vice principal until the time of her arrest. She was suspended in March by the Hemet Unified School District and has since been fired.
"The incidents are believed to have occurred over several months," Wisehart said earlier. "The incidents did not occur on the school campus."
Authorities suspected other students may have been victimized, but did
not come forward.
—City News Service