Smith County Jury Says It Made Mistake In Dudley Case

We're told a Smith County jury says it made a mistake in the sentence involving a former Brownsboro teacher accused of having sex with one of his students.  Donald Dudley, 43, faced up to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty yesterday of sexual assault of a child.

Today, the victim's family had a chance to address Dudley. "She wanted to kill herself, Mr. Dudley because of what you did.   She had to give up her social life with her friends. She never even had a first date, Mr. Dudley. No senior year, no prom, no nothing," said the victim's mother as she cried in court.

"I know the truth and you know the truth. I can forgive you but won't forget you," said the victim's father.

The trial came to a close Friday afternoon after jurors deliberated for three hours. But then something almost unprecedented happened.  Just minutes after the sentence, jurors say, they may have gotten it wrong. "It's so easy to make these kinds of mistakes, the language in the charge is so easy to make these kinds of mistakes. The language in the charge is not the kind of language you sit and read every day," said Bingham.

According to Bingham, jurors thought they were sentencing Donald Dudley to 10 years in jail, then after his release, he would be on probation for five years.  But, because of a misunderstanding, Dudley was given five years probation and if he violates that, he could go to jail for 10 years. As part of the probation, Dudley is set to serve just under six months in jail.

We spoke with Dudley's lawyer, immediately, following the sentencing. "At worse he was looking at 10 years flat in the penitentiary. That's five years' probation compared to ten years in the penitentiary.  It's a relief. It's a weight off your shoulder, obviously," said defense attorney Jeff Haas.

Bingham says the victim's family is upset over the circumstances, but they're not upset at the jury. Bingham says he'll be watching Dudley's every step. "I tell you, he's got five years. If he violates his probation I can promise Mr. Dudley right now, you violate your probation, we're going to be filing an application to revoke and we're going to be asking the court to revoke and we're going to be asking the court to revoke that 10 year sentence so that's the message I send him," said Bingham.

Bingham says because the state has no rights to appeal, there's nothing that can be done. Dudley was also fined $2,500 and he must register as a sex offender. Dudley has another indictment involving the same student in Smith County and he faces a charge of "indecency with a child" in Henderson County.

Oralia Ortega reporting,