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Jury finds Alabama teacher guilty in student sex case

GROVE HILL (AP) — A Clarke County teacher was found guilty Wednesday on two counts of enticing two underage children for immoral purposes.

Sharon L. Rutherford was a 32-year-old English teacher at the 110-student Coffeeville High School in rural southwest Alabama at the time of the alleged events.

Her attorneys told jurors during the trial that Rutherford had sexual affairs with two students but they were not underage and she was not guilty of enticing younger students for immoral purposes.

The younger boys were 14 and 15 when the alleged incidents occurred, court records show.

The defense had claimed during the trial that Rutherford did not have sex with those boys, as prosecutors contended.

The jury began deliberating a little after 4 p.m. and reached a verdict about three hours later, the Press-Register reported on its Web site Wednesday.

The enticement charges are class C felonies and carry a potential sentence of up to 10 years each. Sentencing is set for Dec. 10.

Attorneys and witnesses would not comment because of a gag order put in place by Presiding Circuit Court Judge Thomas Baxter.

On Tuesday, two former students testified that they had sex with Rutherford and that some encounters occurred in her classroom, the Press-Register reported. The boys who testified were 17 or older at the time of their relationship with Rutherford, authorities said.

One of the two testified that he met Rutherford at a graveyard and had sex in her vehicle after she told him to meet her there.

Another, a special education student, testified he and the teacher carried on a sexual affair from 2004 through 2006 at Coffeeville High. He said they had sex in the classroom closet, and on a regular basis after that. He estimated they had sex a hundred times or more.

Rape and sexual abuse charges involving the older boys were dropped last year after investigators determined the youths to be older than Alabama's age of consent, 16.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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