A former Clark County teacher who is behind bars for a sexual relationship with a student should not have been convicted of kidnapping, his attorney argued Monday before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Jason Lofthouse, a former Rancho High School teacher, is appealing his conviction of kidnapping and 10 counts of sexual conduct with a student. He is serving a maximum of 19 years in prison.
Deputy Public Defender William Waters argued that prosecutors overreached when they charged Lofthouse with kidnapping, because his 2015 relationship with a 17-year-old student was consensual.
In Nevada, the age of consent is 16, but state law makes an exception for school employees and volunteers and prohibits them from having sexual contact with pupils.
Waters argued that Lofthouse, now 36 and housed at High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, could not have committed kidnapping as a matter of law because “Lofthouse’s acts were only criminal based upon his status as (the victim’s) teacher.” Waters said the sex acts between Lofthouse and the student were crimes against “public decency and good morals,” not against the teen herself.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Stacy Kollins argued that there was “an increased risk of harm” when Lofthouse took the girl to a hotel to have sex with her.
The girl initially denied having any relationship with the history teacher but later acknowledged to her parents and police that she and the teacher had been involved in a sexual relationship.
She and Lofthouse exchanged more than 4,000 text messages during their relationship, which the girl testified was initiated by both her and her teacher. Lofthouse was convicted of kidnapping for taking the girl to the Aliante Hotel during school hours on two occasions in May 2015.
“I don’t think it’s radical to suggest that her mental harm is probably worse if she has sex at school and gets caught,” Waters said. “She had a legal right to consent to sex with a 32-year-old man.”
Waters also argued that Lofthouse should not have been charged for each sexual encounter with the teen, because the law more broadly prohibits relationships between teachers and students, rather than carving out crimes for individual acts. While a district judge ruled Lofthouse’s sentences for each of the 10 convictions should run concurrently, his lawyer argued the issue had not previously been litigated before the higher court.