A former teacher at Coastal Christian School in Waldoboro has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for the sexual assault of a student in 2016.
Nancy Leigh Ann Brann, 44, of Windsor, had pleaded guilty to one count each of class A gross sexual assault and class C unlawful sexual contact Feb. 4. Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings sentenced her to 12 years with all but 2.5 years suspended, plus four years of probation, during a hearing at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Wiscasset on Tuesday, March 26.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Gerety argued for more prison time up front, while defense attorney Chris Nielsen and the defendant’s older sister requested leniency.
Both attorneys submitted sentencing memorandums, the victim’s family submitted impact statements, and the defendant submitted a written statement for review prior to the hearing.
Brann’s probation conditions prohibit contact with the victim, the victim’s family, and any child under the age of 18, except for her children and grandchildren. She must take certain medication, avoid areas where children congregate, receive sex offender and mental health counseling, and not use alcohol or drugs, while being subject to searches and tests. She must also register as a sex offender.
Billings stayed the sentence until 5 p.m., Thursday, March 28, per a request from Nielsen.
Billings described the aggravating and mitigating factors contributing to his sentencing decision.
He said aggravating factors included the fact that the actions took place in the classroom and were part of a larger pattern of conduct toward the victim that extended to online interactions.
“The defendant abused a position of authority and trust and continued to have contact with the victim after she was fired,” Billings said.
“This took place in school. Some of it took place in places other students could and did notice it,” Billings said.
However, Billings also listed several mitigating factors, including Brann’s lack of a criminal history and her acceptance of responsibility through her plea and disclosures in treatment.
“The fact charges were brought about and known to law enforcement are due to her guilt and trying to get help,” Billings said.
Billings listed the defendant’s mental health history as the most significant mitigating factor.
According to Billings, Brann sought help, and though she may not have followed all recommendations, she was misdiagnosed and receiving the incorrect medication.
“She is someone who sought help and didn’t receive the help she needed,” Billings said.
Ultimately, Billings said he did not believe the aggravating or mitigating factors of the case outweighed the other.
Billings expressed his opposition to the defense’s request for a much lighter sentence, saying such a sentence would diminish the seriousness of the offenses.
Gerety began the hearing’s testimony with the state’s recommendation of 10 years, with all but four suspended, plus four years of probation.
“This person was a teacher and she took advantage of this position. There is no question about that. She took advantage of the vulnerabilities of a person too young to do anything. It was a power imbalance,” Gerety said.
Gerety said Brann became Facebook friends with the victim.
“She became involved with the victim to the degree the victim’s parents were concerned,” Gerety said.
Nielsen recommended 90 days in custody.
“We thought 90 days was appropriate. We don’t want to give the impression this conduct should go unpunished,” Nielsen said.
Brann “was diagnosed and treated for the wrong mental health condition and her real issues went untreated,” Nielsen said.
Referencing the statements of the defendant’s sister, Nielsen said the testimony indicated detrimental impacts on Brann as a result of her treatment by her husband, her in-laws, and her church.
“The sister paints a picture of what her life was like before and what it was like after her marriage, the stresses of her home life and church life,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said Brann’s brief employment at the school conflicted with Gerety’s depiction of Brann as someone who abused long-held trust.
“She had no official training as a teacher. It is not fair to paint her as a predator,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen said his client’s mental health condition left her delusional, adding that her guilty conscience led her to report the offenses during treatment. He did not specify the condition.
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office arrested Brann in December 2017. A Lincoln County grand jury indicted her in November 2018.
At the beginning of the hearing, two criminal charges against Brann related to a traffic incident in Sagadahoc County were dismissed.
The state agreed to dismiss the charges of criminal speeding and violation of condition of release if Brann admitted to a civil speeding violation and paid a standard fine.