FORT WORTH — Brittni Colleps, the 28-year-old Kennedale High School English teacher convicted of having sex with five of her students, was sentenced to five years in prison by a Tarrant County jury Friday evening.
It took the panel more than three hours to reach its decision after a trial that included graphic evidence, including cell phone video. Their options ranged from probation to a 20-year sentence.
Colleps appeared stoic, while the same news was enough to bring her husband to tears. He confessed to the court that the couple were "swingers."
Defense attorney Lex Johnston was disappointed by the decision. "These were not boys; these were not children," he said. "These were grown men who connived, conspired, worked each other to be with this woman.”
But prosecutor Tim Rogers said jurors were right to send a clear and strong message.
"You can't have people like her looking to find her sexual enjoyment in school," he said.
Colleps left the courtroom without speaking with her husband or family. Colleps said she cannot afford her attorney for an appeal, so one will be appointed for her. She has 30 days to appeal the decision. She could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years behind bars.
Earlier Friday, the jury took less than an hour to find Colleps guilty on all 16 counts of improper relationship with a student. The five victims were all 18 at the time, but it is a crime in Texas for a teacher to have a sexual relationship with a student.
Christopher Colleps wept openly as the guilty verdict was announced, and he choked back tears again as he testified that he and his wife of nine years were "swingers" who had multiple sex partners.
He conceded that watching the video evidence shown in court of Brittni having sex with her students was hard to watch, but he was standing by her. "When I took my vows and said my vows to Brittni, 'Til death do us part' means 'til death do us part," he said. "I love her with every part of my heart, every ounce of my being."
Under cross-examination, the former Army cook said he excused his wife's actions because the students were all technically adults over age 18.
After presenting almost no defense, Colleps' attorneys pressed hard to keep the 28-year-old out of jail, urging jurors to grant her probation.
Her attoneys even called on one of her victims to speak on her behalf.
"Do you care about her," the young man was asked. "Yes, I do," he replied.
Prosecutors repeatedly painted Colleps as an aggressive seducer who used her power to influence her students, driving home the "very distasteful" actions with explicit details and graphic sex videos.
"The amount is staggering, and it is disgusting," said prosecutor Elizabeth Beach.
Colleps' attorney closed with saying the true victims in this case are her husband and three young children.
Sentencing was expected later on Friday.
On Wednesday, the prosecution showed the jury video shot on one of the teen’s cell phones of Colleps having sex with them in her bedroom. The next day, the state used photos of Colleps’ bedroom as evidence, arguing that the pillows and sheets matched the setting the jury saw in the video Wednesday.
The prosecution told jurors that Colleps would invite between four and five teens to her house for group sex. They would frequently record the encounters, but the district attorney argued Colleps was aware and allowed it.
The fifth and final victim testified before the state rested its case on Thursday. He told the court that Colleps took him to her home after attending a Texas Rangers game together. The affair began that night.
The victim said the next time it occurred was after a spaghetti dinner at Colleps’ home with three other teens. After the meal, the teacher brought out some sex toys and tried on “form-fitting” lingerie.
The night became physical during a game of “truth or dare” in the 28-year-old’s backyard. The victim said Colleps performed sex acts on each of the teens while the others watched.
Colleps’ husband and three children were not around during the encounter. Jurors were told Friday that the husband was serving in the military at the time of the crimes.
A detective testified the teens recorded having sex with the teacher the day before police were called in May of 2011. Colleps had been working at Kennedale High School for less than a year when she was arrested.
After the state rested on Thursday, Colleps tearfully told the judge she didn’t want to go to trial, but a plea bargain wasn’t offered. The district attorney’s office said it didn’t offer a deal because it felt a jury of Colleps’s peers should decide the severity of the crime.
Colleps did not testify, nor did her attorney present any evidence. During closing statements Friday, the defense argued the constitutionality of the crime, as each of the students were 18 during the affairs and bragged in text messages about sleeping with Colleps.
As the jury left the courtroom, Colleps exited while holding her husband’s hand.
She showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was read while her husband buried his face in his palms. Colleps faces up to 20 years in prison.