A teacher at Antioch Upper Grade school is facing up to seven years in prison after admitting Tuesday that for years he carried on a sexual relationship with a former student.
Lake County Associate Judge Theodore Potkonjak said he was "reluctantly" accepting a guilty plea from Wes Owens, 52, because the original charges against him were reduced.
Owens, of unincorporated McHenry County, was arrested in September after an investigation by police in Lake and McHenry counties.
Assistant State's Attorney Mary Stanton said the victim, who is now 28 years old and living out of state, was a former seventh-grade student of Owens' who went on to become his baby sitter in her teen years.
Beginning in March 1997, when the girl was 15 years old, Stanton said she and Owens had sex on numerous occasions at Owens' home and at the Chain O' Lakes State Park.
The relationship continued until May 1999, Stanton said.
In 2001, Stanton said, the woman was a student at Illinois State University and filed a complaint with campus police in an effort to get Owens to stop contacting her.
Owens was charged in Lake County with criminal sexual assault, and McHenry officials filed criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges against him.
Stanton told Potkonjak she and defense attorney Albert Wysocki had negotiated an agreement that would allow Owens to plead guilty to attempted criminal sexual assault.
The lesser charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years, while criminal sexual assault is punishable by up to 15 years. Both charges are also punishable by sentences of local jail time and probation.
Stanton said she had "extensive" discussions with the victim about the negotiation and that the victim "supports this agreement wholeheartedly."
Still, Potkonjak appeared to question the propriety of reducing the charge against someone who "for two-plus years assaulted this girl time and time again, and then tried to re-establish contact with her."
Stanton assured him that the victim concurred with the action being taken.
"The people are doing this because the victim has made it clear she does not want to testify," Stanton says. "She has gone on with her life and wants to put this behind her."
Stanton and Wysocki told Potkonjak they have discussed Owens' case with McHenry prosecutors and a similar guilty plea is expected there.
Both sides of the case expect any sentence given Owens in McHenry County will be ordered to be served concurrently with the Lake County sentence.
Potkonjak scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 18, and Wysocki said Owens is due to appear in McHenry County court on June 11.
Antioch Elementary District 34 placed Owens on paid administrative leave Aug. 31, pending the outcome of the investigation. His current status in the district was unavailable Tuesday afternoon.