MINDEN - A former Douglas High School teacher has been sentenced to probation and fined $2,000 after he admitted inappropriate sexual conduct with a 16-year-old student.
Richard Booth, 56, who retired after 28 years as a science teacher, apologized for what he called an "inappropriate and stupid choice."
"I've always been one to be honest," Booth said. "I know if you make a choice, you have to suffer the consequences. I made an inappropriate, stupid choice that will scar up my life forever."
Booth apologized to the victim, her family and the community. The girl, now 17, did not attend the sentencing, but her mother and stepfather were present and addressed District Judge Michael Gibbons.
In giving Booth a suspended prison term for the felony offense, Gibbons described him as "an honorable man who made a horrible mistake."
Gibbons said Booth's behavior with the student was reprehensible.
"I have three daughters myself and wouldn't want to see them go through this. But there are other ways to deal with it besides prison," Gibbons said.
He sentenced Booth to 200 hours of community service, fined him $2,000 and ordered him to pay for counseling for the victim.
"It's a serious offense, but in terms of scale of conduct, it's at the low level. There was nothing aggravated," Gibbons said.
He said Booth underwent a voluntary psychological evaluation by a court-recognized authority and he was determined not be a sexual predator or likely to re-offend.
Both Booth's lawyer, Tod Young, and prosecutor Dina Salvucci said the offense did not involve intercourse or oral sex.
The incident occurred in January 2004 while Booth was on leave from the school district awaiting deployment with the Nevada National Guard. He was arrested in October after the girl told her family what happened.
Even though the contact was consensual, the Nevada Legislature created a law in 1997 making sexual conduct between a teacher and student a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The victim's mother said her daughter lived with her until she was 15, then moved in with her father.
"She was looking for a friend and this is what she got," she said. "This man is an adult. He knew better. He preyed on her vulnerability."