Fort Worth Star-Telegram
FORT WORTH, Texas — Former Kennedale High School teacher Brittni Colleps was sentenced to five years in prison Friday evening for having multiple sexual encounters with five of her students.
The jury took less than three hours to sentence Colleps to five years in prison and under an hour to convict her on 16 counts of improper relationship between an educator and student. The 28-year-old mother was not assessed a fine. She faced up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the counts.
Colleps will have to serve a quarter of the sentence before she is eligible for parole.
After the verdict was read, Colleps was ordered into custody and her bond revoked.
All of the students were 18 at the time of the sexual encounters, which occurred in the spring of 2011.
After hearing closing arguments during the punishment phase, jurors began considering her sentence at about 3:50 p.m. CDT Friday.
The defense was seeking probation; prosecutors asked jurors to show their “moral outrage.”
The state did not call any witnesses during the punishment phase, but Colleps’ mother, Shirley Bush, took the stand for the defense and testified that she was disappointed with her daughter, whom she described as a model child.
Colleps was a star softball player at Arlington High School and was named the Arlington Star-Telegram’s newcomer of the year in 1999.
Bush asked the jury to have “mercy” on her daughter and their kids.
“They need their mom,” Bush said. “ … It’s not their faults.”
During cross-examination, Bush acknowledged that her daughter had told her that Colleps and her husband had been involved in group sex before.
The mother said her daughter deserves a second chance to prove herself to her children.
A family friend was called next and testified that Colleps’ children have acute allergies and asthma and that Colleps is their primary caregiver.
“There are three children that are going to be without a mother if she goes to jail,” the friend said.
John, one of the students Colleps had sex with took the stand next, and told jurors that she should only lose her teaching certificate and get minimal probation, saying she has already paid plenty for her crimes.
John said he cares about Colleps and is concerned for her.
Colleps’ husband, Christopher Colleps, testified next and said they’ve been married for nine years. He acknowledged that the last year has been “pretty rough.”
He had been in the military, and was stationed outside of Arlington when his wife had the sexual escapades with the students.
He said he has watched the video of his wife having sex with the students and said he was mad at her, but that he was working through the problems and going to church and praying.
Defense attorney Lex Johnston asked Christopher Colleps if he and his wife had sex with other people. Crying, he replied, “Yes, sir.”
Christopher Colleps said they did nothing illegal and that he is staying with his wife “because till death do us part means till death do us part.”
He said that what his wife did was “morally and ethically wrong” but that’s “between me and her and God.”
He said that putting her in jail would punish him and their children for something they had no control over.
Christopher Colleps said the children cried when they were told that “mommy did some bad things and made some bad choices and … might have to go away.”
During closing arguments earlier Friday morning, prosecutor Tim Rodgers said the evidence against Colleps is “overwhelming.”
“There’s no gray area. There isn’t a sliding scale of how guilty she is,” Rodgers said.
Defense attorney Cynthia Fitch countered by saying that Colleps has lost her good name and her reputation with this case.
“Her name has been drug through the mud through the last 15 months,” Fitch said.
Johnston, the defense attorney, said “this is a victimless crime.”
“I didn’t hear from any children,” Johnston continued. “These are grown men that are old enough to go to war.”
Johnston asked jurors to read excerpts from the text messages Colleps and the students shared.
“Those are the children the district attorney’s office wants you to protect,” Johnston said. “ … Each one of these boys is just as guilty in this crime as Brittni Colleps.”
Johnston said the trial was nothing more than a dog and pony show “and you can infer that she didn’t want to have any part of it.”
He asked jurors “to tell the DA and the state of Texas that this act is not a crime.”
Prosecutor Elizabeth Beach said that Colleps signed a school policy promising to comply with the law to not have sexual relations with students.
“You don’t have a crime captured on videotape very often and that is what you have here,” Beach said.
She said the students did not wear condoms and that “everybody ejaculated” during the night when Colleps was videotaped having sex with four of the students. Beach said the amount of bodily fluids and possible diseases exchanged during the night was “staggering and it is disgusting. It’s completely disgusting.”
Beach told the jurors “that is the legacy that this senior English teacher left to her students. That is her legacy.”
Beach asked the jurors to return a guilty verdict on all counts.