URBANA — A 24-year-old woman who admitted having sex with a teenage boy for whom she acted as a teaching assistant has been sentenced to four years of probation.
Judge Roger Webber said Friday he did not believe Allyssa Gustafson, who had no prior criminal convictions, was a danger to the public.
However, he said the requirement that she register as a sex offender for life — “the modern-day equivalent of the scarlet letter” — would serve to punish her.
Gustafson, who now lives in Tuscola, pleaded guilty in September to aggravated criminal sexual abuse for engaging in a sex act with a 14-year-old boy who was a student at the Circle Academy in Urbana, where she was employed as a teaching assistant.
The school serves children with challenges who have trouble in a traditional classroom setting.
In return for Gustafson’s plea, Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Alferink dismissed a more serious count of criminal sexual assault.
Alferink, who sought a five-year prison sentence for Gustafson, reminded the judge that the facts agreed to at the time of plea were that she and the teen had several sexual encounters between May and August 2019.
“She sent him photos of herself in lingerie and a bathing suit,” Alferink said, adding that Gustafson, who was in a position of trust, had instructed him to delete any social-media posts between the two of them.
Her attorney, Mark Lipton of Champaign, had sex-offender evaluator and treatment provider Michael Kleppin testify that he found Gustafson to be at a low risk to re-offend and said that she had been helped by counseling over the past seven months.
Kleppin said he’s not aware of any treatment options available in prison for female sex offenders.
Lipton argued that she is not a danger to the community, has strong family support and would be closely monitored while on probation.
Lipton argued that the lifetime sex-offender registration is already causing problems for Gustafson, who was working at a fast-food restaurant before the recent birth of her second child.
“I made a terrible error in judgment and this has hurt a lot of people,” Gustafson said through tears, apologizing to her victim and his mother, who was present in court, as well as her own parents. “I am sorry for the pain I have caused so many people.”
Webber said it was apparent that Gustafson didn’t “contemplate the effects of her conduct at all” on the teenage boy but said the Legislature has said probation is the preferred sentence unless it deprecates the seriousness of the offense or is inconsistent with the ends of justice.
“The public doesn’t need to be protected from her,” Webber said, adding that technology allows for people to sign up for alerts when a sex offender lives in their area.
As part of her sentence, Webber gave Gustafson 180 days in jail but set a hearing for December to see if she qualifies for electronic home detention.