Woman admits to illegal sexual relationship with teenage boy
ARCO — A Soda Springs woman who had sexual relations with a teenage boy pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Amanda Katherine Steele, 35, ultimately pleaded guilty to two felony counts of injury to a child. Originally, prosecutors charged Steele with three felony counts of child sexual battery committed by lewd conduct but amended the charges as part of a plea agreement.
Tuesday’s hearing is not the first time Steele tried to plead guilty to the amended charges. On June 16, Steele appeared before District Judge Darren Simpson, who said the amended charges did not fit the allegations of the crime.
The criminal complaint states Steele likely caused great bodily harm and willfully caused or permitted the 17-year-old boy to suffer unjustifiable mental suffering.
“You heard my concerns about the great bodily harm and mental suffering the last time we talked about this,” Simpson said Tuesday in the hearing over Zoom. “So I don’t know if there’s any evidence that you’ve been provided that would prove that. But you understand that by me accepting your guilty plea, you’re agreeing that you caused the child to suffer.”
Simpson said that although he did not accept the plea last time, after reviewing other cases, he determined courts in Idaho do not need to establish a factual basis on the crime to accept the plea. Because of this, Simpson allowed Steele to admit to causing great bodily harm to the 17-year-old, even if there isn’t evidence she caused the boy to suffer.
“I engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual under the age of 18 twice,” Steele said as her reason to plead guilty.
According to court documents, at least two teenage boys said they would skip school and Latter-day Saint seminary to have sex with Steele. At the time, Steele lived in Arco. In court Tuesday, she said at least one encounter happened at the 17-year-old’s home and another time at her house.
Although the victims considered the sexual conduct consensual, prosecutors charged Steele because under Idaho law, a minor who is 16 and 17 cannot consent to sex with adults five or more years older than them. Charges filed only cover one of the victims.
Despite allowing Steele to plead guilty, Simpson said he would determine whether to accept the plea agreement after reviewing a pre-sentence investigation and a psychosexual evaluation with a polygraph. Simpson said he did not feel comfortable deciding on the sentencing portion of the plea agreement without knowing all the facts.
The plea agreement stipulates Steele be given a sentence no longer than a retained jurisdiction or rider program, which is typically six months to one year. The agreement also clarifies that if a psychosexual evaluation shows Steele is a low risk to re-offend, then she is to be placed on probation with local jail time on the table. If given any of the jail time, it would be served on weekends when she does not have custody of her children.
If Simpson accepts the plea agreement, the document stipulates he follows those terms. If he denies the plea agreement, Steele would be allowed to revoke her guilty plea and take the case to trial.
If Simpson approves the plea agreement, Steele is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 8. Because Steele is not charged with a sex crime, she would not have to register as a sex offender.