Angela Jean Stanton, who volunteered for years with a local youth sports league and was beginning a substitute teaching role at Citrus High School when she was arrested in January, was sentenced to eight years in prison for having illicit interactions with a pair of teenage boys.
Stanton, 50, must also serve a year of house arrest following her incarceration, and register as a sex offender, Circuit Court Judge Richard “Ric” Howard ordered at her sentencing hearing Wednesday afternoon.
“You’re going to have a bad day,” the judge said to Stanton prior to his ruling.
Stanton's eyes widened after Howard delivered his sentence but remained stoic as a bailiff handcuffed her and led her out of the courtroom.
There were sparse reactions from those sitting the courtroom gallery, which included the two boys, now 17 and 16, who Stanton sent nude Snapchat photos of herself to last spring and summer, when she also sexually battered one of the boys, then 15.
In exchange for a reduced sentence, Stanton pleaded no contest in May to charges of lewd and lascivious battery on a person between 12 and 16 years old and two counts of showing obscene material to a minor.
Had Stanton taken her case to trial and been convicted as charged, she could have faced between eight and 25 years behind bars.
In an emotional statement prior to her sentencing, Stanton apologized to her family, the boys’ families and her friends. She pleaded with Howard to imprison her for a year so she can continue her treatment for depression, and be there for her children.
“As I sit here today, broken and distraught, I am extremely remorseful but also full of fear,” Stanton said. “The way I acted was unacceptable; it was very out of character for me. I would never have thought in my lifetime that I would be capable of anything like this.”
Howard questioned Stanton's motive, noting that she continued to pass blame onto the boys when she was being questioned after her change of plea for her presentencing report.
“You specifically declined to comment…saying the children forced you into this,” the judge said. “What were you thinking, lady?”
“They did not force me,” Stanton replied. “I honestly don’t know.”
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detective Jonathan Richey, who led investigations into Stanton’s Jan. 23 arrest, explained to Howard how Stanton had been targeting athletic boys for years through her involvement in community sports groups, like Inverness Storm cheerleading and football.
After befriending the boys and their families, Stanton would send graphic photos and videos of herself to the boys over Snapchat, and often solicited them to send illicit images back to her, Richey said.
One of the victim's mothers testified Wednesday that Stanton knew her son since he was 5 years old.
“Never in a million years did I think it would go this far,” she told Howard about Stanton’s relationship with her son and family. “My trust has been shattered. She is a depraved human being…she’s a true example of a predator.”
A day following Stanton's arrest in January, the Citrus County School District fired her from her weekslong position as a short-term substitute teacher at Citrus High School, which the two boys attended.
Richey said Stanton applied for the job so she could be closer to her victims.
Stanton’s attorney, Jaimie Washo Spivey, asked Howard for a downward departure in his sentencing, arguing the boys were willing participants, and that Stanton’s depressed mental state and remorse for such an offense warranted jail time and sex-offender registration.
“This was an abnormality,” the Tavares defense lawyer said.
Assistant State Attorney Shannon Schlarf argued the full nine years was a justified punishment, and claimed her mentality did not support a lesser sentence.
“Mental health counseling is available in state prison,” the prosecutor said.
Before rendering Stanton's sentence, Howard shared his take on the comments in the roughly 60 letters he received from the public, many of which did not support Stanton's reasoning.
“Ms. Stanton, they don’t hate you. Most of those people despise you, and there’s a big difference in that,” the judge said. “They rue the day they met you.”