Former Sabine ISD teacher aide avoids prison for relationship with student
GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Cassie Dowden has been sentenced by a judge Wednesday after pleading guilty to having sex with a teenager in the school district where she was employed.
Dowden has been sentenced to 10 years adjudicated, a $10,000 fine, $7,000 probated. She will be required to attend counseling. She must go to jail Wednesday through Sunday this week, plus 30 more days in the Gregg County Jail. She is required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous for five years. She will have to do community service. She will have another hearing in a year, the judge stated.
Dowden was in court Wednesday, listening to witnesses speak to prosecutors and defense attorneys about her character in a case that alleges she had sex with a 17-year-old student when she was working in Sabine ISD.
Dowden was arrested in June 2019. At the time, Sabine ISD Superintendent Stacey Bryce confirmed Dowden was employed as an aide with the elementary school but was accused of having a relationship with an older student in the school district. We now know that the student was a 17-year-old male.
An arrest warrant affidavit alleges Dowden admitted to a pastor that she engaged in sexual contact with the student. The pastor in turn advised deputies of the member of his congregation’s actions.
Witnesses took the stand Wednesday to speak about their personal and professional knowledge of Dowden.
David Reeves owns an antique shop in Kilgore. The defense questioned him, as he said he has known Cassie since she was in high school. He also went to school with her mother. He hired Cassie to work in his shop, and said he trusts her and leaves her alone to run the store at times. He said he would continue to do so, even though she pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony.
Next on the stand was Gayle Robinson, who knows Casey through Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program similar to AA that is Christ-centered. She said that Cassie is a regular attendant at meetings. She believes Cassie has accepted full responsibility for what she did by admitting her guilt and showing remorse.
She said, “Cassie is going to be an example of ‘God takes my mess and makes a message out of it.’”
Under cross-examination by the state, Robinson said she is a retired teacher’s aide. She says Dowden broke trust in several areas, and that people are human beings and make mistakes.
“Having ... sex in a Whataburger parking lot was a mistake; she manipulated and lied to her husband. She is not manipulating me or the program,” Robinson said.
Cassie allegedly didn’t attend the program until she was in legal jeopardy, it was revealed.
Jessica Douglas was called to the stand by the defense. Cassie Dowden has worked for Douglas at Vineyard Legacy Cleaning Service. She said she is always there shows up on time, is very dependable. She said she didn’t know the extent of the charges when she hired her but knew she had a history. Her history hasn’t effected her work, she said, and she hopes she can keep her on staff. She said Dowden is a team leader of a two-person crew, and she has had no issues with her.
Under cross examination state, Douglas said she knew Cassie had had an improper relationship with a student, and she would still employ her if she gets probation. However, if she went to prison and came out she would not hire her.
Next to take the stand was Nan Lambright, pretrial officer for Gregg County for the past 10 years. Lambright says she has supervised 300 people Since June 11, 2019, Cassie has been under her supervision and she says she pays her fees each month. It has amounted to over $900 so far.
She said Dowden tested positive for alcohol in July 2020. She said she admonished her after her drug test and never had another problem after that. She said she only received a warning since she was honest about drinking.
She said Dowden told her she had a sip. She believes Dowden is taking her recovery seriously, since she sought out her recovery program and wants to be successful in it. She listened and did what she needed to be successful on pretrial, she said.
Under cross examination, Lambright said Dowden admitted using alcohol on July 18,2020. She said she still came and reported during COVID.
She has not been drug tested since her July 14, 2020, she said.
After these witnesses left the stand, both the state and the defense gave closing arguments.
“We talk about equal punishment under the law. Every time a attractive teacher has a relationship with a student the comments are ‘where were these teachers when I was in school?’ If this was a male football coach there would not be any probation, it would be two to 20. When a teacher manipulates a 16 year old and is warned by her pastor, husband, and friends and still has sex, she does not deserve probation. A male counterpart would not get probation. Don’t let her manipulate this court. She has never had accountability or apologized for what she did. The State recommends 8 years in prison.”
“She has accepted her responsibility. She entered her plea. The decision destroyed her marriage, career and friendships. She accepts full responsibility and shame for what she did. She is asking for mercy. She has changed. She has worked for the past two years and paid taxes; We are asking for probation for several years, and counseling.”
The State and the defense rested.
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