LAFAYETTE — A former Acadiana High School teacher who allowed teenage students to have sex in his apartment while he sometimes secretly filmed them was sentenced Tuesday to 27 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
The sentence followed a stern lecture from U.S. District Judge Richard T. Haik, who told Stephen McKay Hurst, 38, that Hurst had abused his position and used it to manipulate childen in an effort to produce child pornography.
“You weren’t their friend at all. You were using them and that’s why you’re here,” Haik said.
The one-time English teacher, golf coach, and speech and debate coach faced a sentence of 10 years to life after he pleaded guilty in February to sending text messages to one of the students, a boy under the age of 17, to offer the boy use of his apartment for sex.
The sexual activities occurred from 2005 to March 2010.
Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Luke Walker told Haik that Hurst “basically created an environment of sexual exploitation.”
He said Hurst took the videos and showed them to other boys, who would then exploit other girls.
Walker said while Hurst’s ultimate goal may have been to exploit boys, he also exploited girls in the process.
The sentencing hearing also revealed what Haik called Hurst’s “absolute bald-faced lie” involving information Hurst claimed to have had about an inmate’s desire to kill Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Grayson, who prosecutes drug cases in the Western District of Louisiana.
FBI Special Agent Douglas H. Herman testified Tuesday that Hurst sent a letter claiming that an inmate had Grayson’s personal address, and that the inmate intended to do the prosecutor harm.
Herman said it was one of several tips that Hurst gave the government while he was incarcerated.
The U.S. Marshals Office began investigating the threat because “an incident like that stops our office in its tracks,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Ed Comeaux, who also testified Tuesday.
Comeaux said the letters said someone was following Grayson around.
Comeaux said he spent about two months investigating the threat, which involved monitoring the suspected inmate’s phone calls and searching his cell.
When nothing turned up, Comeaux said investigators began investigating Hurst, who eventually admitted that he had asked an outside friend to track down Grayson’s address.
“I’m convinced he was trying to get … a sentence reduction,” Comeaux said.
While Hurst admitted in court Tuesday to getting the address from a friend, he maintained that the threat was real.
“My goal was always to be of help,” Hurst said.
Hurst told Haik that he had already volunteered to take a lie-detector test to prove it, because he knew “in my heart and my brain” that the inmate did have Grayson’s address.
Hurst’s attorney, Charles Ferrara, asked Haik for leniency because Hurst had never before been in any trouble and that he had already accepted responsibility for his actions.
The comment did not sit well with Haik, who countered that while the offense might be Hurst’s first, “it’s a big first” and it involved multiple incidents and victims.
Hurst apologized to his family and friends, many of whom sat in the courtroom Tuesday, telling them that he “was very, very sorry for disappointing them.”
Hurst also apologized to the Lafayette Parish School System and to his students for not being the man he was supposed to have been.
Haik said he did not feel the sentencing guidelines of 210 to 262 months “adequately reflect the seriousness of the crimes.”
Hurst was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of production of child pornography, and one count each of attempted production of child pornography, using a facility in interstate commerce to cause a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, possession of child pornography and obstruction of justice.
“I feel sorry for you, but I feel more sorry for your victims,” Haik said, adding that he hoped the sentence served as a deterrent to others.
In the last year, Haik has handed out stiff sentences to another teacher and a counselor accused of child-exploitation charges.
In August, Haik sentenced Allison Hargrave, a former Ascension Episcopal School counselor, to 30 years in prison in a child-exploitation case involving a 14-year-old female student.
In November, Haik sentenced Larry Caillier II, a former Opelousas High School teacher, to 14 years in prison on a federal child-pornography charge involving a 15-year-old female student.
“It’s got to stop,” Haik said, referencing the string of cases.