Former Smyrna schools’ employee gets probation in rape of 2 underage students

Karen L. Brooks

DOVER — A former Smyrna School District employee received four years probation Wednesday after pleading guilty in November 2017 to raping two underage students.

The Delaware Department of Justice sought a four year-prison sentence for Karen L. Brooks, of Dover, who was a 38-year-old educational diagnostician, working in the Special Services department at Smyrna Middle School when arrested in June 2017.

While Smyrna Police referenced just one suspected victim when initially announcing charges, the DOJ said in court that a second minor was discovered as the investigation continued.

Brooks, who is married with two children, was ordered to comply with Level III intensive supervision through the Delaware Department of Community Corrections and register as a moderate risk Tier II sex offender, among other conditions.

The judge also ordered Brooks to surrender her teaching certification and license. Her attorney said she has been working in a part-time job since her educational career ended, hoping to gain full-time employment.

Prosecuting Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Dickerson referred a media request for reaction to the DOJ, which declined comment through a spokesman.

Asked for response to the sentence afterward, defense Attorney Alex Funk said Brooks “wants to express remorse for her actions and her concern for the victims and their families. She is grateful for the sentence she received.”

Brooks declined to speak during the roughly 30-minute hearing before Superior Court Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr., deferring to her attorney Mr. Funk in comments made to the court.

Describing his decision as a “judgment call” after weighing extensive pre-sentence investigation reports, Judge Witham said Brooks would be given zero tolerance consideration for violations and failure to abide meant “you’re going to be incarcerated.”

Judge Witham said he was “struck and surprised on how this could occur” when supposedly school safe supervision was involved and it “somehow got skewed by your (Brooks’) personal issues.”

During a 15-minute presentation prior to sentencing, Mr. Funk began by describing Brooks as a victim of childhood sexual abuse by age 11 with untreated mental health issues that weren’t diagnosed until her arrest in adulthood.

While Brooks accepted that she was wrong for her actions and took full responsibility for them, Mr. Funk said, a mental health professional diagnosed her with a “Sitting Duck Syndrome” that made her “uniquely vulnerable to do something such as re-enacting.” Several other mental health diagnoses were noted in open court, including bipolar disorder.

Highly trained educator

In pushing for incarceration, DAG Dickerson described Brooks as a manipulative, highly-educated (three master’s degrees and 14 years experience) and trained educator in dealing with children who “chose students to wine and dine to get them into her web,” knowing they would not likely be cooperative with investigators.

The educator supposedly lent her vehicle to a student who was a runaway from home and opted not to call the Division of Family Services instead, the DAG said. She also provided the youth with up to $150 a week, according to the prosecution, and bought him an iPhone with cell phone service. “The defendant only confessed after she was caught,” DAG Dickerson said.

The prosecution read an emailed statement from a victim’s mother (reportedly unable to attend due to the flu) who described Brooks as a “predator” with “sick wants” who violated the belief that the school system should provide a safe haven for children.

Mr. Funk said Brooks accepted responsibility before being indicted by a grand jury, which avoided the need for victims and their families to possibly appear during court proceedings.

The attorney pointed to “numerous character reference letters” describing Brooks as “hard-working”, a “good person who cares about people,” and “a mom who loves her husband who will be (militarily) deployed overseas in 30 days.”

The DOJ countered those notions with some co-workers who described her as manipulative and not always honest, along with a family bond not as strong as portrayed.

She resigned from the Smyrna School District in June 2017, surrendering what her attorney said was a $70,000-something annual salary.

Mr. Funk said his client had shown complete commitment to continued medication, counseling and therapy sessions, and an evaluation of risk to re-offend was on “no measurable scale.”

Offense, probation defined

The judge ordered Brooks, who had no prior criminal record, to pay $354 in fines and have no contact with children under 18 years old other than her biological kids.

Level III probation is defined as:

“At least the equivalent of one hour of supervision per day and no more than 56 hours of supervision per week. The minimum of one (1) hour of supervision per day is achieved through direct offender contact, collateral contact, verification of each offender’s activities (e.g., residence, employment, training and school), and performance with court-ordered treatment and Community Service.

“The emphasis is on supervision through increased community contacts.”

Fourth-degree rape is defined as when the person:

1, Intentionally engages in sexual intercourse with another person, and the victim has not yet reached that victim’s 16th birthday; or

2, Intentionally engages in sexual intercourse with another person, and the victim has not yet reached that victim’s 18th birthday, and the person is 30 years of age or older, except that such intercourse shall not be unlawful if the victim and person are married at the time of such intercourse; or

3, Intentionally engages in sexual penetration with another person under any of the following circumstances:

a. The sexual penetration occurs without the victim’s consent; or

b. The victim has not reached that victim’s 16th birthday.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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