After two hours of deliberations, a Jackson County, Michigan jury of twelve found Jonathan Hastings guilty of sending sexually inappropriate texts to one of his students. The former Jackson high school teacher and baseball coach is now facing up to ten years in prison and the prospect of being on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.
According to court documents, Hastings was first arraigned on May 2, 2015. He was charged with two felonies, namely Using a Computer to Commit a Crime, and Promoting or Distributing Child Sexually Abusive Material, also known as Child Pornography. Briefly, there were issues regarding the legitimacy of screen shots of certain messages that Hastings sent to a former student. That held up the prosecution for a time. However he was bound over to Jackson County Circuit Court after the victim testified that she had received inappropriate texts and pictures from Hastings.
The screenshots caused further delays before trial, while the judge determined whether or not they could be admitted into evidence. In the end the judge decided to allow the screenshots, along with testimony provided by two former students, into evidence so that the jury could decide for themselves.
On October 10, 2016, Hasting’s trial began in Circuit Court. The first witness called to the stand was the alleged victim, a 17-year-old girl. She told the court that Hastings wasn’t one of her teachers at Jackson High School, but that he had started following her on twitter late in 2014. Their exchange of messages later moved to imessage.
The next two witnesses were two former students of Hasting’s, both of whom had engaged in sexual relationships with him after graduating. Of of the witnesses had graduated in 2010, while the other graduated in 2013. Both testified that Hastings had pursued them shortly before they graduated, and that this had ultimately led to a sexual relationship after they left high school. At the time of their fully consensual relationships with Hastings, both were over 18.
Although the relationships Hastings had with the two former students were not against the law, the prosecution introduced them into evidence because they wanted to “show his motive and intent.” According to Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steve Idema, the reason for having the two girls testify was because “Both had just graduated. Both were students. Both had sexual relations with him. Both went down the same path as the latest student.”
In an effort to undo some of the damage, Hastings’ defense attorney explained to the jury that voting based on your emotional reaction to a person doesn’t result in a sound decision. “Just because you think he’s a bad man based on his actions, being a bad person and actually committing a crime are two different things. People are convicted because they break the law. You do not convict someone because you do not like them.”
The jury took only two hours to decide that Hastings had indeed sent inappropriate messages and pictures to a high school student. He was convicted on both counts. His sentencing has been scheduled for December 8, 2016 in the Jackson County Circuit Court. Although the decision is up to the judge, Hastings could be looking at up to ten years in prison.
At the Kronzek Firm, we represent many people accused of sex crimes. We understand that this is an extremely difficult time, and that you will need the best possible help to ensure the outcome for your case. Don’t leave this serious felony and sex charges in the hands of an inexperienced attorney. We have decades of combined experience, and can help you work through this dark time. Call us today at 866-766-5245. We’re here for you.