Judge says teacher who had sex with 17-year-old can expunge her record in two years

Jeff Bobo • Aug 31, 2016 at 6:45 PM

ROGERSVILLE — A former first-grade teacher accused of having sex with a Cherokee High School student three months before his 18th birthday was sentenced to two years of probation Wednesday morning, but was granted a judicial diversion.

The judicial diversion, granted by Judge John Dugger in Hawkins County Criminal Court, gives Kelly Elizabeth Cowan an opportunity to petition the court to expunge her record if she completes the terms of probation.

Cowan, 46, of Rogersville, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to three counts of aggravated statutory rape, one of which was from Hawkins County, and two from Hamblen County.

Aside from serving the two years of probation, Cowan will be added to the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry.

If her record is ultimately expunged, she can be removed from the sex offender registry.

Third Judicial District Attorney General Dan Armstrong objected to the judicial diversion.

“I think anybody of her age, having sexual relations with a minor — my personal belief is that person should not be entitled to a judicial diversion, although by law it can be granted,” Armstrong told the Times-News Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously I have great respect for Judge Dugger and what he did. I just had a personal objection to it.”

Cowan taught in the Hawkins County and Rogersville school systems for more than 20 years.

She was teaching first grade at RCS in February when she was indicted for aggravated statutory rape by a Hawkins County grand jury.

She was suspended when the allegations came to light and fired after criminal charges were placed.

The affair with the Cherokee student was alleged to have occurred in January and February.

Sources close to the investigation told the Times-News that the allegations came to light after the boy told classmates about his relationship with Cowan, information which eventually reached school administrators, who reported it to law enforcement.

The victim, who is now an adult, testified Wednesday, asking Judge Dugger to grant the judicial diversion.

He also testified that how they met was unrelated to her work at RCS.

In approving the judicial diversion, Dugger noted that Cowan was eligible due to havingo no previous criminal record.

Dugger also stated he’d received many letters supporting her, and that she was amenable to rehabilitation through probation.

Dugger asked Cowan if she is working, and she noted that she is currently divorced and holding down two jobs.

Attorney Jack Marecic, who represented Cowan, said she is trying to rebuild her life.

“She’s glad to get this behind her,” Marecic told the Times-News after Wednesday’s hearing. “One thing that struck me about this case was the victim was three months away from being an adult. He was 17 years and nine months old when this happened. If it had been three months later, it would not have been a crime at all.”                                                               

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