By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
Although Kirt Yarbrough's relationship with Killeen Police Explorer members was as a teacher, the suspended police officer faces different charges for his suspected sexual involvement with a teenage participant.
Killeen and Copperas Cove police officials might have been able to apply the felonious charge of improper relationship with a student against Yarbrough. But grand juries in Bell and Coryell counties indicted the former explorer program leader on two charges of sexual assault last month.
Yarbrough, 53, is accused of having sex twice with a 16-year-old in December at hotels in Temple and Copperas Cove.
Sexual assault and improper relationship with a student are both second-degree felonies that carry maximum prison sentences of 20 years. Law enforcement officials usually reserve the improper relationship charge for school employees accused of sexual behavior with pupils.
But Yarbrough's alleged sexual acts, if they occurred in most other states, might not have resulted in criminal charges at all. Only six states, including Texas, set the age of consent at 17. Most states and Washington, D.C. - 34 in total - set consent at age 16. The remaining states set 18 as the consenting age.
In the past year, four Killeen-area school employees have been accused of having sexual relationships with students.
A former coach of Copperas Cove High School girls' basketball team was accused having an improper relationship with a student last March but was never charged. He is no longer an employee at the school.
The other three school employees, two in Bell and one in Coryell counties, pleaded guilty and received probation. Many factors played into the two plea agreements with school district employees in Belton and Troy, said Murff Bledsoe, first assistant district attorney in Bell County, adding that the most important was the wishes of the victims and their families.
"In both of our cases, you had a consensual situation, and you had male victims that really just indicated to us they didn't want to go through some big trial," said Bledsoe.
In addition, he said, neither of the two Bell County defendants had a criminal history, which was another factor in offering plea agreements instead of prison sentences.
The other school employees charged with sex crimes involving teenagers:
In November, Amanda Krueger, a 32-year-old former secretary for Belton Independent School District, pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship with a 17-year-old student. She received three years of deferred adjudication, 100 hours of community service and a $250 fine.
In November, Kaci Suzanne Pomerenke, a 32-year-old teacher at Troy Middle School, received seven years of deferred adjudication after pleading guilty to having an improper relationship with a 14-year-old student.
Matthew Thomas Doyle, 38, a former assistant coach at Copperas Cove High School, was charged with sexual assault after school district officials became aware of a relationship with a 16-year-old student last March. Doyle pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Common sex crime charges
In Texas, most sex crimes involving teenagers fall under the umbrella of four charges:
If the minor is 13 or younger, the crime is aggravated sexual assault. The first-degree felony has a maximum punishment of life in prison.
If the minor is 14 to 16, the charge is sexual assault. The defendant must be at least three years older than the victim. The second-degree felony carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
If the victim is 17 or 18 but a student of the defendant, the charge is improper relationship with a student. This second-degree felony's maximum punishment is 20 years in prison.
Any sexual contact with a minor under 17 without intercourse is indecency with a child, which is a second-degree felony with a maximum 20 years in prison.
If the defendant didn't touch the victim but genitals are exposed, the crime is reduced to a third-degree felony with a maximum 10 years in prison. The defendant must be at least three years older than the victim.