Former Miamisburg Middle School teacher Jessica Langford was convicted of having sex with a 14-year-old eighth-grader in her classroom and was sentenced Tuesday to one year in prison — a rarity in such Montgomery County cases.
The age of Langford’s victim was a key factor in why prosecutors believe Langford got incarceration while ex-Fairmont High School substitute teacher Madeline Marx last month was sentenced to probation despite having two or three victims.
The Marx sentence was one both sides in the Langford case cited in their punishment requests for her.
“There’s a huge distinction,” said Montgomery County assistant prosecutor Michele Henne, who sought a maximum sentence of 15 years for Langford. “During that (Marx) case, the victims in that case were 16 and 17 years old, respectively.
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“And here we’re dealing with a 14-year-old, who – in any other circumstance – cannot ever consent to having a sexual relationship with anyone.”
There are similarities and differences between the Langford and Marx cases. Both are Chaminade Julienne and University of Dayton graduates who had positive early career job performance reviews, though Langford did have disciplinary issues in recent years.
Both will be required to register as Tier III sex offenders, will be on probation for up to five years, can’t live within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare and must surrender their Ohio teaching licenses.
Among the case differences:
Langford, 32, was 31 when she had sex with a then-14-year-old student on the last day of school in 2017. She was convicted of three counts of sexual battery (teacher) and three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.
The 17-year difference is greater than that of Marx and her victims. She was 23 when she engaged in sex with students who were six and seven years younger. Marx was convicted of two counts of sexual battery (teacher).
Henne said that 16-year-olds can consent to sex with adults, but the student-teacher relationship is what makes such activity illegal in Ohio.
In addition to age, Montgomery County Judge Timothy O’Connell said “mental injuries suffered by the victim” was a “serious factor” he weighed in sentencing Langford. The father of Langford’s victim – now 15 – said his son has suffered during the past year.
“Before this incident my son was confident, strong-willed, driven, a good student, a good athlete,” he told O’Connell. “Now he’s ostracized by his entire community of Miamisburg, the staff of Miamisburg public schools, other students, parents and friends. He feels embarrassed and alone … he feels alone and helpless.
“He knows he did the right thing by telling on Langford because other kids his age – her students – also had issues” with the former teacher.
“…. His reward for doing this is being labeled for the rest of his life as the kid who had sex with his teacher. … girls think it’s gross and want nothing to do with him. He’s now introverted, uncomfortable to talk to other people. They know who he is.”
Prosecutors in Marx’ case said victims’ families were split about whether Marx should be incarcerated or get community control.
Remorse, plea vs. trial
Marx, who admitted to having oral sex with one teen and sexual intercourse with another — both in parking lots — was immediately remorseful and cooperated investigators, according to prosecutors.
And though Marx did explore pleading guilty by reason of insanity, that defense ultimately was dropped, and psychological evaluations revealed the Brookville woman suffers from mental challenges, some of which stemmed from her own sexual abuse.
Dylan Smearcheck, a Montgomery County assistant prosecutor who works in the child abuse bureau, said, “Because Ms. Marx pleaded guilty in this case, the victims were spared reliving this through a trial.”
Langford denied wrongdoing, remorse and responsibility for most of the case and took it to trial, prosecutors said.
The father of Langford’s victim said his son’s testimony in April “re-victimized him … She was entrusted with the care of her students and she threw it away for her own sexual gratification.”
Family, community support
Langford is married and has a 4-year-old daughter. Marx is single.
Both former teachers had dozens of notes of support from family members, friends and neighbors.
But Marx also had letters from ex-Dayton police officers, some of whom touted the family’s contributions to public services such as police, firefighters, waste treatment, and also from private sector professionals in finance, medicine and the law.
“It definitely doesn’t hurt to have those types of people behind you writing letters to the judge,” said University of Dayton law school Professor Emeritus Thomas Hagel.
One letter of support for Marx was written by Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley, who, along with his wife, lent support to their friends of more than two decades.
Foley didn’t mention his political position in their letter.
“Madeline went to grade school with our daughters. I coached their soccer team,” Foley said. “Kathleen, who is my wife, wrote this in our capacity as friends of (her parents) Chris and Pam and Madeline.
“We wrote the letter of support because the family was going through a very difficult time. We’ve always felt like it was important to be there for people in good times and in bad.”
Both cite Hartmann case
In court filings regarding Langford’s sentencing, both the defense and prosecution mentioned the 2013 conviction of Kelsey Hartmann.
Hartmann, a Wayne High School teacher who was caught having sex with a 16-year-old in her vehicle, was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty.
Langford defense attorney Lawrence Greger pushed for a similar sentence for his client, who had no prior criminal record. “The punishments that await Jessica at sentencing will have a deterrent effect on all others, especially teachers,” according to court documents filed by Greger.
“Jessica’s situation demonstrates that being irresponsible, even for a brief moment, can affect your freedom and your future in incomprehensible ways,” the document stated.
Greger declined comment after his client was sentenced.
In the Hartmann case, the defendant was convicted “solely of unlawful sexual contact with a minor,” Henne wrote in court documents filed last week.
Henne wrote that Hartmann “accepted responsibility for her actions” when asked by police, that Hartmann was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and personality disorder and that the victim’s family … specifically requested to resolve the case by plea bargain.”
Variance in sentencing
Henne said the family of Langford’s victim was satisfied that she would be incarcerated, “knowing that that’s not a frequent sentence, although certainly they were wishing for a higher sentence.”
Similar cases in other area counties have led to prison time for teachers having sexual contact with students, but Henne said no one in her office could recall such a sentence in Montgomery County.
“It seems like a national variance in terms of what happens with these types of cases,” she said.
Henne said Miamisburg schools acted appropriately and investigated Langford when there were allegations of flirting but not criminal activity.
“No one expects your children to be violated by going to school,” Henne said.