Ex-Tucson teacher gets prison in student-sex incidents

Nearly 3-yr. term given for incidents involving minors
2013-04-09T00:00:00Z 2013-04-16T10:19:25Z Ex-Tucson teacher gets prison in student-sex incidentsVeronica M. Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A former Ironwood Ridge High School art teacher was sentenced Monday in Pima County Superior Court to nearly three years in prison and eight years' probation for having sexual contact with three students.

Melissa Ann Dalton, 34, was arrested in April 2012 after school police resource officers were made aware of allegations against her.

Dalton, who worked at the school for less than a year, was accused of having sexual contact with three different students and sending inappropriate photos to one of the students, according to court documents.

The incidents happened in Dalton's classroom, car and one of the victim's homes, according to court documents.

She was indicted in May 2012 on seven counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of furnishing obscene or harmful items to a minor involving a fourth student.

In February, Dalton pleaded guilty to one count of sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of attempted sexual conduct with a minor.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Victoria Otto asked Judge Christopher Browning for the maximum prison sentence possible because of the impact Dalton's actions had on the victims.

Defense attorney Michael Piccarreta asked the judge to sentence Dalton to the minimum of two years in prison because she took responsibility for her actions, is remorseful, has sought therapy and has support from family and friends, several of whom were present at the sentencing hearing.

Dalton asked the judge if she could turn to speak directly to the victim's families when it was her turn to address the court.

Browning denied the request.

While sobbing Dalton apologized for her actions.

"I'm so sorry because I was completely wrong," she said. "I was their teacher, and I broke that trust and I should be held accountable, and I should be held to a higher standard."

She said as a parent of two young boys, she understood how the families felt and said she would feel the same way. "I wish that there was an apology that I could give that would be able to heal their hearts," she said.

Browning said the case was "entirely avoidable" and Dalton's actions created several victims including family, friends and the public.

Dalton will have to register as a sex offender when she is released from prison.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or at 573-4224.

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