MACHIAS — A former teacher at a Lubec elementary school was sentenced Friday in Washington County Superior Court to 30 days in jail for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old boy.
Tina Mason, 31, of East Machias cried and sniffled in the courtroom as she pleaded no contest to charges of assault, sexual abuse of a minor and unlawful sexual touching. The victim, who is now 15 years old, showed no emotion while he sat on the other side of the courtroom with his family.
Mason sought to avoid serving time behind bars, but Justice Kevin Cuddy agreed with the prosecution’s recommended sentence of 30 days in jail for Mason, who is married and has two young children.
“There is nothing I can say that will make this situation any better,” Mason tearfully told the judge. “Please think of my own children. Who will protect them if I’m not there?”
Mason’s husband, mother-in-law and sister-in-law sat in the courtroom opposite the victim and his family as Mason spoke.
According to Paul Cavanaugh, assistant district attorney for Washington County, the victim did not attend Lubec Consolidated School where Mason taught. Mason, her husband and their two boys, ages 6 and 10 years old, were friends with the victim’s family, who also live in East Machias. The victim’s family knew the Masons socially because his two younger siblings are the approximate ages as Mason’s sons, Cavanaugh said.
The victim’s mother addressed the court, criticizing her former friend for taking her son’s innocence.
The Bangor Daily News typically does not identify the victims of sex crimes.
“You have taken something from my son that no one should ever take,” the mother said. “You have no remorse. Shame on you. You are getting off easy.”
After the proceeding, the victim’s mother said her son and family are ready to try to put the incident behind them.
“I’m happy it’s over,” she said of the legal wrangling over Mason’s fate. “We want to move on.”
After the sentencing, Mason’s family left through a rear door of the courtroom as Mason was taken to jail to begin serving her sentence. Mason’s attorney, Sandra Collier of Ellsworth, declined to comment on the case.
According to Cavanaugh, the illicit relationship between Mason and the boy began sometime in June or July of 2007 and ended a few months later in September 2007.
After the court proceeding, Cavanaugh said Mason resigned her teaching position at the Lubec school last December after the incident came to light. Lubec school officials had concerns about a possible inappropriate relationship between Mason and one of her students, which proved to be unfounded, but contacted police when their investigation revealed the relationship between Mason and the East Machias boy, he said.
With the conviction, Mason will have to give up her teaching certification permanently and will be a registered sex offender for 10 years, Cavanaugh said. He said the initial allegations in the case were that Mason had intercourse with the boy, but that the misdemeanor crimes to which she pleaded no contest on Friday amount to lesser sexual contact.
In addition to the 30 days in jail, Mason received two consecutive suspended sentences of 11 months in jail, each with one year of probation. If Mason violates the terms of her probation after her release, she could end up serving 22 months of additional jail time. She also was ordered to pay a $400 fine.
Cavanaugh said he was “satisfied” that Cuddy agreed with the state’s recommended sentence of 30 days. He said there was no physical evidence in the case, and that if the case had gone to trial it likely would have taken a couple more years before it would have been resolved.
“Hopefully, this can move both [of the families] forward,” the prosecutor said.
Cuddy indicated during the sentencing, however, that regardless of how Mason and the victim go on to live their separate lives, they each will never fully be rid of what happened.
“The reality is these events are never going away,” the judge said.