AKRON, Ohio– Just nine months after pleading guilty to a felony charge of sexual battery of a 17-year-old student, a former high school counselor has been granted early release from prison.
Rebecca Sparrow, a former guidance counselor at Cuyahoga Falls High School, appeared before Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigal Jones on Tuesday, along with her attorney, who described her as an exemplary prisoner who has followed the rules while she was incarcerated and will follow the rules if she is released on community control sanctions.
“When Ms. Sparrow stood before you back in January she stood here with no prior criminal record whatsoever; she took responsibility for her actions. She stood before you and said she was guilty and that she would take whatever you gave her. She apologized,” said attorney Michael Callahan.
Prosecutors, however, say nine months, less than half of the sentence given by the same judge in January, is not enough.
“The state does not believe that nine months or a little over nine months — I believe Rebecca Sparrow was sentenced January 28, 2019 — is substantial or sufficient time for her to reflect on her actions, is not sufficient time to reflect on rehabilitation, and is not sufficient time to punish her for the action she has done,” said Asst. Summit County Prosecutor Felicia Easter.
Sparrow was also given the chance to address the court on Tuesday.
“I would just like to say that I have taken the time that since I have been incarcerated over the last nine months to reflect on my actions and the awful, horrible decisions that I have made. I take full responsibility for all of those things that I did and I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive myself for the hurt that I have caused my family, the destruction that I have caused in my marriage, to my children; I just hope that I can continue focusing on being the best mom that my kids deserve. They deserve to have a good mom and for me to be able to be there for them,” said Sparrow.
The victim, who prosecutors acknowledged did not support a prison sentence during the initial trial, was not in court for Tuesday’s hearing.
In her address to the court, Easter referred to a letter from Sparrow’s ex-husband explaining that her actions have had a ripple effect on the people that are close to her, including their children who are now seven and 10 years old.
“James Sparrow’s letter, they and the kids want to move far away and they would like Rebecca Sparrow to remain in jail,” said Easter.
The judge, however, agreed with Sparrow that she has proven herself to be a good candidate for judicial release, allowing her to leave prison, erasing the remaining 15 months of her two-year sentence, and placing her on community control for four years.
Sparrow will still have to register as a Tier III sex offender.
“I appreciate the fact that you accepted responsibility. I know this process on everyone — the victim, your children your family, your mom, everyone — has been very difficult and now it’s time for you to move forward and make sure you are a healthy, safe productive member of our community and please take care of your children,” said the judge.
Sparrow’s mother was in court for Tuesday’s hearing and declined comment to FOX 8 News, but confirmed the plan was for her daughter to live at home with her.
Prosecutor Easter did not comment on the judge’s decision afterwards.
Sparrow’s release could happen as soon as Wednesday.
Her complete plea to the court is detailed in a handwritten letter that was made part of the court record, in which she said:
“Honorable Judge Jones,
Over the course of the last six months, I have utilized my time to reflect on my actions, accept how my actions have offended so many people and grow as an individual to ensure I never make these kinds of mistakes again. I understand now that my perspective before being incarcerated was skewed, as I was focusing on what others had done to me and placing the blame on them. Now, however, I understand that the only person to blame for this is me. I accept full responsibility for my terrible decisions and wish that I could go back and change them. Attending weekly bible studies through church on the Rose and We Care Ministries at NERC allowed me to accept my mistakes and taught me to focus on growing and healing as an individual to help me become a productive member of society again, as well as a better mother, daugher and friend. While I, unfortunately , can not change my past I am committed to the constant pursuit of being better in the future.
Throughout my time at NERC, I was able to identify boundaries as one of my weaknesses in relationships. I attend Codependents Anonymous weekly in an effort to help me develop healthy boundaries, respect other peoples boundaries and learn the keys to developing healthy relationships. I also moved into the faith-based dorm in an effort to heal spiritually and surround myself with positive, faith oriented people. Both of these experiences allowed me the outlets and opportunity to heal and grow in my relationships with God and others.
Finally, while at NERC, I took advantage of several opportunities to extend my knowledge of a variety of subjects I have completed several programs. A Better Me, The Week that Was, Understanding Real Estate, Creativer Writing, Personal Universe, hear my Silent Cry, Entrepreneurism, Boundaries while at Marysville, The Secret Financial Peace, Hannah’s Gift, Meditation Yoga, and The Only Person You Cheat is You.
I also earned my Environmental Literacy Certificate through my completion of Roots of Success, a program designed to teach individuals the importance of environmental responsibility. In May I completed tutor training and in June I was selected as one of only three ladies chosen to tutor Pre-GED students in language arts and math, This position allowed me to work one-on-one with two different students to help them prepare to test for their GEDs.
While my time at NERC has been difficult, it has also been beneficial to my personal growth and healing; however, I am confident that I am prepared to return home to my family and truly be a productive member of society. I humbly ask that you grant my judicial release.