A New Zealand teacher has given up her legal battle to keep her identity secret after being convicted of engaging in sex with two teenage boys.
Thirty-seven-year-old Jaimee Marie Cooney on Tuesday withdrew her appeal, that was set to be heard Friday, of a judge’s refusal to grant her application for permanent name suppression, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Cooney’s decision resulted in several publications revealing her identity.
A mother of two and wife of a police officer, Cooney is believed to be the first teacher in New Zealand to be convicted of having sex with students.
In October, the 37-year-old pleaded guilty to seven charges of unlawful sexual connection with minors and one of exposing a minor to indecent material over a year-long period. Cooney was sentenced in December in the Blenheim District Court to two years and six months in jail. She faced a maximum term of 10 years.
She was also forced to register as a child sex offender.
The charges included engaging in sex with the two boys often in cars in public places and during school lunch breaks. She was a teacher at Marlborough Boys’ College in Blenheim, but has had her credentials, or registration, revoked.
Media reports indicated that she had sex with the first boy when he was only 14 and the second became involved when Cooney arranged for the trio to have a threesome.
“She would talk to him about her mental health problems and tell him that life was getting too hard for her and she needed someone to talk to,” the police report said referring to the first child.
“The defendant and the victim built up a trust and this led to [her] getting flirty with the victim.”
New Zealand teacher convicted of sex with students identified
Cooney’s lawyer argued her actions were not as serious as other teacher-student relationships since they boys were “significantly bigger” than her and therefore not intimated by her.
He also claimed the sex acts were not degrading.
During sentencing Judge Tony Zohrab called the crime “a gross breach of trust.”
He scolded her by saying no one should have been more aware of the needs of young men than a trained teacher.
“It’s difficult enough without these sorts of things occurring,” he said. “Your role was a pastoral one … you have seriously compromised your obligations.”
At sentencing, Zohrab denied her request for her name to be permanently kept from the public.
Police documents said Cooney had sexual relationships “with a number of students,” however, she was only charged with engaging in sex with two.
Prosecutor Mark O’Donoghue referred during her sentencing hearing to the vulnerability of victims, age discrepancy between Cooney and the boys and that it was not a one- or short-time incident.
“She’s gone out of her way to target them in a sexually exploitative way,” he said.
“This was sexually exploitative conduct by an adult … she emotionally manipulated both boys.”
Blenheim sex abuse teacher can now be named: Jaimee Marie Cooney abandons fight for permanent name suppression, via @nzherald https://t.co/0AY82a2XQx The double standard is incredible. 2 years for changing a boys life forever? #nzjustice
— Darren Rickard (@shareinvestor) February 3, 2020
On social media, the story prompted criticism of the New Zealand justice system, with some calling the sentence “backwards” and “incredible.”