GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Illicit and sometimes graphic text messages from 2010 compiled in a police report show an ongoing relationship between a then 57-year-old teacher and a 16-year-old student.
Krag Sanford, now 59, struck plea deals in two counties earlier this week in which he pleaded no contest to three felony charges stemming from his affair with a teen who was his student at Saranac High School.
As a result, Sanford will likely only spend a few months in prison -- if he is incarcerated at all.
"We based our decision on talking with Ionia County and getting an agreement we could all live with, especially him giving up his teacher's certificate," Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker told 24 Hour News 8 on Monday.
Sanford will also have to register with the state as a sex offender.
The Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer said Tuesday that those texts messages could not prove a sexual relationship beyond a reasonable doubt and that he did not have physical evidence, which is why he did not pursue more serious criminal sexual conduct charges.
Schafer said Wednesday he wasn't confident that Sanford's texts could be used in court.
Law professor Curt Benson of Cooley Law School saw 24 Hour News 8's report on the text messages on Tuesday night.
"Yeah, I watched it on the 11 o'clock news," he said. "Like anybody, I had a visceral response to it. It was a very emotional thing, it's a very disgusting thing. And certainly, the evidence is pretty compelling that he is guilty of a crime."
He said the text messages could be used as evidence -- but there also needs to be corroborating evidence.
"I can see where the prosecutor is coming from," Benson said. "He has to have some evidence beyond just the defendant's word to show that a crime has been committed, and I think that's where the evidence is failing."
Benson said part of the problem in prosecuting was likely an unwilling witness -- the now-17-year-old involved in the affair.
That teen and Sanford filed for a marriage license in March and she is pregnant with his child.
Benson said the teen's texts would be hearsay and inadmissible in court, but that Sanford's texts should be allowed in court.
"I'm sure the prosecuting attorney is as frustrated as the rest of us because certainly there is enough, you would think, there is enough here to take this to a jury," said Benson.
But, Benson said, the texts probably couldn't stand alone.
"That corroborating evidence -- some evidence beyond his words. And I recognized immediately that that evidence is probably wanting," Benson said.
The Krag Sanford timeline:
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