EDITOR’S NOTE: The story contains graphic details. Reader discretion is advised.
DRIGGS — A former teacher, wrestling and football coach was sentenced and will serve time in prison for sexually abusing a female student.
Jeffrey Gregg Wilkes appeared before District Judge Steven Boyce in a Teton County courtroom Tuesday afternoon. Wilkes was clean-shaven and wearing a gray suit.
Wilkes was sentenced for a unified term of five years, comprised of one year fixed and four years indeterminate. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and court costs. He will serve at least one year in prison before he is eligible to go before the parole board and will ultimately serve between one and five years before release. While in prison, Wilkes will be eligible to participate in sex-offender programming that would not be available in local jail.
“I would like to apologize to the victim and her family. I am so sorry to them for everything that happened, the pain that I have caused to her,” Wilkes said. “I am so sorry to this community for letting them down and letting my family and my friends down.”
He added that he promised to improve himself and make up for what he did wrong.
Wilkes previously worked at Teton High School in Teton School District 401.
He was indicted by a Teton County grand jury in November on two counts of sexual battery of a minor child. The indictment alleged that Wilkes was 29 years old when he had sexual contact with a 17-year-old victim.
“He placed himself on top of the teen and performed wrestling moves on her as she was lying face-down on the floor grading papers. He allegedly pressed his genitals into her body and ejaculated,” Teton County Prosecutor Bailey Smith said in court.
Wilkes was also accused of sending texts seeking repayment and/or “bribes” from the victim.
“He corresponded with her via text messages. He solicited that she participate in sex acts. He requested photos of her unclothed hips,” Bailey Smith said. “He also permitted her to leave his class early on multiple occasions to get to her sports practices, but he required that she wrestle with him to receive that benefit.”
Smith added that on several occasions, Wilkes entered the wrestling room and he would lay on top of the victim. The victim had tried to convince herself that she was imagining things and that it was “all too crazy to be real,” but after he ejaculated in his shorts, she wanted to go and report what was happening to authorities. The victim was “horrified and confused and totally helpless,” Smith said in court.
Smith said the victim thought nobody would believe her if she reported it because it would be her word against his and Wilkes was an adult. The victim tried to avoid him as best as she could and was in “panic” when she unexpectedly ran into him.
The victim did not come to court on Tuesday for Wilkes’ sentencing. Smith said it was too painful for her to come and she had difficulty talking about what happened.
The plea agreement
In May, Wilkes entered a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child and misdemeanor sexual battery. In turn, his original charges were amended. As part of the agreement, Wilkes agreed to undergo a psychosexual examination and polygraph test.
According to a news release from the Teton County Prosecutors Office, the plea agreement also stated that if Wilkes were sentenced to probation, he must:
- comply with all treatment recommended in the psychosexual evaluation
- be prohibited from working as a teacher, athletic coach or in any other role or setting involving unsupervised contact with juveniles. Consistent with Idaho law, the ultimate sentence imposed upon the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Bailey Smith recommended the following sentence to Judge Boyce:
- Three years fixed plus four years indeterminate
- At least six months of imposed time
- 180 days of discretionary jail time and a fine of $1,500
- 50 hours of community service
- Three years of supervised probation following incarceration time
- One year of incarceration and a $1,000 fine
Attorney Curtis Smith, representing Wilkes, told Judge Boyce he was fine with the underlying sentence, but because Bailey Smith was asking for six months of local jail time, he wanted the judge to consider work release so Wilkes could keep his current job.
Curtis Smith said Wilkes was learning, growing and understanding what he did and the impact on the victim and her family.
“My client from the very beginning has wanted to have an opportunity to apologize and indicate how sorry he is to the victim for what happened,” Curtis Smith said. “He has been involved in counseling all of these months. He is doing things to better himself because he also knows that what that will do and also send a strong message to the victim and the community that he is doing things that will make him safe in the community.”
Curtis Smith referenced the pre-sentence investigation and the fact Wilkes said, “I am fully responsible for my actions…it was immoral, thoughtless and immature.”
He said Wilkes had fully and comprehensively accepted responsibility.
“I have known this man’s family for a lot of years. They are an excellent family. I know his siblings, I know this man’s father, I know the kind of community members they are,” Curtis Smith said about Wilkes. “Is everybody unhappy that Jeff made the decision and mistakes that he made in this case? Absolutely. But they are a tight family, a good support group, they are moral people. They recognize that this has to be rectified.”
“I think I could spend hours trying to tell you and the community, the press, the state, that I have someone here who is on the path of doing everything he can, every day of his life, to rectify this…” Curtis Smith added.
Judge Boyce said he believed Wilkes was remorseful.
“I do believe you are sincerely remorseful for what’s happened and that you have accepted responsibility as well,” Boyce said. “You have suffered some serious consequences already as a result of the career that you have.”
Judge Boyce found both mitigating and aggravating factors impacting sentencing. Judge Boyce said, however, that Wilkes accepted the responsibility for his actions a long time later.
“The really egregious thing about the case is where it occurred and the fact that a school is a place where the public entrusts people with their children,” Judge Boyce said. “It wasn’t a single occurrence. It was a pattern of behavior to an individual student, and you were in that authoritative position, a position of trust, and you took advantage of that.”
After Judge Boyce sentenced Wilkes, he was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.