COVINGTON, TN (abc24.com) - Former Tipton County teacher Cindy Clifton pleaded guilty to several counts of rape Thursday afternoon.
She was indicted last fall on 53 counts, 29 of those counts for rape. She pleaded guilty to 15 counts, seven rape charges. The plea deal only puts her behind bars for three years, at the most.
The crowd could hardly make out the "guilty" coming from the lips of Cindy Clifton in the Tipton County court Thursday afternoon. The fifth grade teacher made a deal, admitting to guilt to eight misdemeanor alcohol charges and seven felony rape charges. Her lawyer, Blake Ballin, says the teacher did what she needed to. "She was facing what could have been a life sentence, 50 years or more."
The 42-year-old wasn't held responsible for 17 counts of rape. District Attorney, Mike Dunavant says, "We believe it resolves it, we got to the truth of the matter and for Clifton to plea guilty and accept her responsibility to go to the penitentiary for three years, we think it's appropriate."
Her total sentence is 11 years, more than half of that will be served outside prison walls, in the comfort of her own home, under supervised probation. Dunavant says, "That is fair based on current state of Tennessee law."
Clifton pleaded guilty to three acts of oral sex with 14-year-old boys during school, in her classroom at Crestview Middle School in Covington, TN. According to the District Attorney she would write a note to other teachers requesting the presence of a minor in her classroom, once he was in the classroom she performed oral sex on the boy behind a file cabinet.
She also pleaded guilty to performing oral sex on a 14-year-old in the bathroom of her home before a school choir concert, oral sex with a 15-year-old in her car, and oral sex with a 16-year-old in her bedroom. The state says reliving the details of the sex abuse in court would victimize the teens further. "We have avoided the victimization and exposure to victims, the time and expense and public heartache of this trial," Dunavant says.
Clifton was immediately taken into custody after the plea hearing. She is eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of her sentence, which means she could be out of jail by next summer.