A former Alabama teacher imprisoned for sleeping with two of her students is appealing her conviction, claiming state mandates infringe upon her constitutional right to have consensual sex with anyone over the age of 16, PEOPLE confirms.
In a recent court filing obtained by PEOPLE, Charli Jones Parker’s lawyers argue the 31-year-old educator — now serving three years in prison after pleading guilty in August to having sexual contact with students younger than 19 — should be freed, because state statute treats school employees differently from other people.
“Alabama law does not make it a crime for members of other occupations to have consensual sex with 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds, even when there is a position of trust or authority,” Parker’s appellate attorney, Virginia Buck, argues in the brief.
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The filing further asserts that “a 65-year-old doctor, minister, therapist, or attorney is not subject to criminal liability in Alabama for having consensual sex with a 16-year-old over whom he has authority or with whom he holds a position of trust.”
The filing further asserts Alabama law criminalizes “private, consensual sexual intimacy” and did not apply to private school employees until 2016 — after Parker’s arrest.
In August, a Morgan County Circuit Court judge determined the law prohibiting sex between a school employee and student is unconstitutional — a decision the state has appealed. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has not yet issued a decision in the case.
“School employees have been unfairly singled out and are being sent to prison for something that, at most, might cost people their job or their license in any other profession,” the brief argues.
Parker was arrested in 2016 when she worked at a private school.
Her 33-year-old husband, James Franklin Parker, was arrested at that same time, also for having sex with a former student of his. He, too, pleaded guilty and has a sentencing date scheduled for June.