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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

Former teacher gets five years probation on sex charges Former teacher gets five years probation on sex charges (July 02, 2004)

Briggs makes special guilty plea 'to spare family grief'

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Former Harvest Park Middle School teacher Stephen Briggs made a special plea last week to two charges of having sex with someone under age and received five years probation.

Nine of the 11 original sex charges were dropped, leaving two counts of statutory rape, said his attorney, Elizabeth Grossman of Berkeley. His plea, made in Alameda County Superior Court in Hayward, was pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court 1970 case of North Carolina vs. Alford, she said.

"The Alford plea is a statement to the court that although he is not guilty of the charges, he entered the guilty plea freely and voluntarily in an effort to spare his family further grief and to avoid the potential for negative consequences," said Grossman.

Grossman said she negotiated the disposition with District Attorney Kevin Murphy. "It's my understanding that the victim's family was in complete support of the resolution of the case," she said.

In addition to the five years' probation, Briggs, 33, had to surrender his California teaching credential and will not be allowed to work with youths during his probationary period, said Grossman. He must also undergo counseling. After successfully completing his probation, he can apply to the court to reduce the felony charges to a misdemeanor.

"One of the tragedies of this whole case is he was an extremely gifted and generous teacher," said Grossman. "It's a great loss."

Briggs recently relocated from his home in San Ramon with his wife and two young children, she said.

Briggs began teaching in the Pleasanton Unified School District in 1997. He was put on administrative leave by the district in January 2003 after allegations were made, according to a release issued jointly by the school district and the Police Department. After an investigation, criminal charges were filed. School Superintendent John Casey said his status was changed to non-pay in early September.

Briggs posted $270,000 bail in November, with several dozen supporters in the Pleasanton courtroom.

The alleged victim just completed her sophomore year at Amador Valley High School. According to court records, she became acquainted with Briggs at the end of her sixth-grade year, shortly after she and her family moved to Pleasanton from Fremont. He coached her basketball team and was the school advisor for the Quest Service Club.

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