State

Former Johnson County high school teacher sentenced for illegal relationship with student

A former high school teacher in Johnson County has been sentenced to 14 years in prison after admitting he received nude photos from a female student and had sex with her.

Robert L. Cantrell, 26, must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence handed down Tuesday because there is no parole in the federal court system. He also will be on supervised release for 15 years after prison.

Cantrell met the girl when she was a student in one of his classes in 2014 at Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, were he taught U.S. government and coached the academic team, according to court records.

Cantrell was 25. The girl was 16.

The girl told police she used a cell phone to send Cantrell nude photos of herself. On June 26, 2014, for instance, she sent Cantrell a sexually-explicit photo and he texted back “Oh, lord!!!!!!!,” according to his plea agreement.

The girl also told police Cantrell picked her up in his Chevrolet SUV and took her to his house, where they had sex.

Police began investigating after the girl’s father saw messages she and Cantrell had exchanged and went to the Johnson County sheriff’s office, according to a court record.

The essence of the messages was that the two loved each other but that their relationship could cause him problems with police and his employer, as well as “public/private shame,” his plea deal said.

Cantrell pleaded guilty to one count of using a phone to “knowingly persuade, induce, entice and coerce” a person under age 18 to engage in sexual activity.

The government planned to seize his SUV because it was used in the crime. However, Cantrell agreed to pay $2,500 in lieu of the forfeiture so he and his wife could keep the vehicle, according to court records.

Cantrell’s attorney Dan Carman sought a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Cantrell realized that “regardless of her desires at the time and her subjective capacity to consent, he facilitated a inappropriate, damaging experience for her …,” Carman said in a motion.

U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves turned down the request for a lesser sentence.

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