Joseph Douglas Rodgers

Rodgers

A former teacher who admitted having an improper sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student was spared jail time Wednesday and placed on probation.

A jury in Waco’s 54th State District Court recommended that Joseph Douglas Rodgers, 29, be placed on probation after he pleaded guilty in November and asked the jury to determine his punishment.

Judge Matt Johnson asked the probation department to conduct a background report on Rodgers before formally sentencing him.

During a brief hearing Wednesday, Johnson sentenced Rodgers to felony probation for 10 years and ordered him to pay the $7,500 fine, both in accordance with the jury verdict.

Johnson, who rejected an initial plea bargain in which prosecutors offered Rodgers probation, considered giving Rodgers up to 180 days in the county jail as a condition of his probation. He decided against it after reviewing the presentence report.

Rodgers also was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service and will not be allowed to serve as a tennis coach while on probation for anyone 17 or younger.

The judge also prohibited Rodgers from advertising his coaching services on the internet and from seeking employment as a teacher or substitute teacher.

He also ordered the probation department to supervise Rodgers on its sex offender case load.

Rodgers pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship between an educator and student, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Rodgers did not testify during his two-day trial in November, but his mother testified that he thought the girl was 18 and had graduated because he taught her in an upper-level chemistry class at China Spring High School before they began their sexual relationship in July 2011.

The victim denied that claim. She said she was a 15-year-old sophomore at China Spring when she met Rodgers, a substitute teacher in two of her classes. He knew she was on the tennis team and he coached her in private tennis lessons in the summer, she said.

Rodgers definitely knew she was not 18 and that she was returning to high school, she said. He asked her to keep their relationship secret, she said.

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