- Odd News
CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- A former Chesterfield County bus driver dodged an active prison term Wednesday on her conviction of having sex with a 15-year-old middle school pupil in a relationship that spanned two years.
In an unusual sentencing arrangement, Chesterfield Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler sentenced Tracy H. Allanson, 45, to five years in prison with four years suspended on a felony count of taking indecent liberties with a minor while in a custodial role. Hauler then stayed the one-year active prison term for 10 years.
That means she will serve no time unless she breaks the law over the next decade or violates the judge's order not to have any further contact with the teen.
The judge's decision was tantamount to suspending the entire five-year sentence. He also ordered Allanson to continue individual counseling and pay $217 in restitution to the victim's family for counseling sessions for the boy. She will also have to register with the state as a sex offender.
The victim, now 18, was an advocate for Allanson in his victim-impact statement and asked that she not be sent to prison. Because Allanson had no prior felony conviction, state sentencing guidelines called for probation and no prison time for the first-time offender.
However, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney M. Duncan Minton Jr. argued that Allanson deserved to spend some time behind bars, noting that she continued to "lie" about her relationship with the teen while undergoing counseling and blamed her actions on her husband for "not being kind to her."
"I'm truly sorry for what I've done," Allanson told the court. "I realize what I've done is wrong. I didn't intend for this to happen. Being the adult, I should have known better."
According to evidence, Allanson told investigators that the boy was infatuated with her and that she helped satisfy his curiosity about sex. She added that she was "trying to be a friend" to the teen and that he was "having trouble at home" when she began the relationship while she was his bus driver at Chester Middle School.
On May 6, 2009, according to evidence, Allanson and the teen went into a wooded area with a blanket where the then-41-year-old bus driver performed oral sex on the boy and allowed him to fondle her genitals.
Defense attorney Michelle Ferris called the sexual contact a "one-time isolated event" that a forensic psychologist who performed a psychosexual evaluation of Allanson said was not premeditated and did not involve deviate behavior. The psychologist also said Allanson was a low risk for repeating the offense.
Still, Minton pointed out that Allanson continued to communicate with the teen over the next two years — including after her arrest — via text messages and emails.
The boy's mother discovered the relationship last fall after finding fully clothed photos of Allanson on her son's computer flash drive that were labeled, "The love of my life." The mother also recovered three pairs of women's panties that her son tried to discard.
Investigators learned that Allanson met the boy in 2008 when he was in middle school and that the two traded phone numbers and exchanged text messages. After Allanson's husband of 22 years discovered the communication, she switched to email, establishing an account under the boy's last name to better conceal their relationship.
Earlier this year, after being released on bond pending trial, authorities learned that she continued to communicate with the teen, in violation of her release, via Facebook.
Allanson and the boy were both friends with another person, and in January they began chatting with one another through the third party's Facebook page. That person alerted authorities, and Allanson was again jailed.
Minton said Allanson signed her postings to the teen with phrases that included, "I love you" and "Together forever."
Deborah Garber, who described herself as a certified biblical counselor, said Allanson has undergone 25 Christian-oriented counseling sessions since her arrest, is remorseful and understands the consequences of her actions. "She has basically turned her life around," Garber said.
However, Garber acknowledged when questioned by Minton that she was unaware that Allanson continued to communicate with the teen after her arrest.
The teen's mother testified that the relationship has taken a toll on her family and caused her son to experience significant emotional swings. At one point, his grades dipped, but he was able to rebound with the help of his teachers. She said her family still feels the need to supervise the teen, though he's now 18, and feels like he's in danger.
"He's a changed person," the mother said.