Former Crater High teacher pleads guilty to sex charges

[Updated: 8/25/17 4:15pm] Medford, Ore. — A former Crater High School teacher accused of having sex with one of his students, changed his plea Friday morning.

Jeffrey Zundel pleaded guilty to 2 counts of sex abuse in the second degree, and 1 count of official misconduct. The plea was part of a negotiated settlement with the district attorney’s office. Several other charges were dropped.

According to the district attorney’s office, the relationship started when the victim was a student in Zundel’s photojournalism class. Zundel would reportedly leave pastries on the student’s desk, and compliment her looks. The DA says he called them “soulmates”, and said the victim looked like his childhood girlfriend who drowned. He told her he believed she was that girl reincarnated.

“He used his position as her teacher to gain access to her and to really have a relationship with her that she wasn’t old enough to understand fully,” Jackson County Senior Deputy District Attorney Terry Smith-Norton says, “for a teacher to cross the line in this way, and to exploit a student for his own gratification is really, it’s disappointing, and something the state does not take lightly.”

On Friday, both the victim, and her mother, tearfully addressed Zundel calling him a “sexual predator and a pervert” who was a “small, weak, coward,” for taking advantage of his position and influence with the student.

Zundel made a very brief statement saying only that he was “sorry, deeply sorry” to everyone he hurt.

Following their statements, Zundel was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 3 years supervised probation on the official misconduct charge, and 5 years supervised probation on the sex abuse charges.

“In Oregon when the victim is 17 years of age, it’s not a mandatory prison sentence that the judge has to impose as it would be for a younger victim,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Terry Smith-Norton explains, “they look at a defendants prior criminal history and where he fits on the sentencing guidelines grid.”

Smith-Norton says the victim and her parents were consulted prior to negotiation of the settlement. She says the victim shared a sense of relief that it was over.

“She’s now able to carry on with her life and move forward,” Smith-Norton says, “and I think this has been weighing heavily on her for the last 2 years.”

Zundel has no prior criminal history. He will not report to jail until September. He is required to register as a lifetime sex offender. He also surrendered his teaching license and is not allowed to have contact with minors. We’ll have more on this story tonight on NBC5 News at 5 and 6.

 

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