High school English teacher Stephen Tori sponsored an afterschool writing club called Society of Future Authors. A student turned in a poem about how a relative had sexually abused her when she was a child.
Tori then called a state Child Abuse Hotline and filed a report about the then 16-year-old girl’s disclosure, records show.
But Palm Beach County School District police investigators later suspected Tori of starting sexual relations with the student off campus in 2018, soon after she turned 17. Tori admitted only to giving her rides home from school — until the 30-year-old Royal Palm Beach man pleaded guilty Monday to a felony sex charge.
Circuit Judge Daliah Weiss imposed a sentence of a year behind bars, to be followed by four years of sex offender probation.
The victim told the judge she supported the plea deal, while also reading a statement about how the Seminole Ridge High School teacher had betrayed her trust.
Tori was convicted of a charge called unlawful sexual activity with a minor by an authority figure of a school. It’s punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Assistant State Attorney Joshua Dockus dropped two felony counts filed in the case over alleged sexual contact, and 12 sexually charged text messages.
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The school district police investigation began in spring 2018 after authorities received an anonymous letter reporting an “inappropriate relationship” between the teacher, then 27, and the student. But they denied there was anything going on besides the rides home after the writing club.
The investigation resumed in July 2018 after an assistant principal at the west county school got an anonymous call from someone claiming to be a former student, reporting on Tori and the victim.
During an interview with a detective the following month, the teen admitted to having sexual relations with the teacher, including one incident in his classroom when she removed her top.
“The victim disclosed that all sexual encounters with the defendant were consensual, and she was never forced or threatened by the defendant,” an arrest report said. “The victim stated that she actually fell in love with the defendant, and she was hoping they could have a relationship after she graduated from high school.”
Defense attorney Greg Rosenfeld said Tori lost his job with the Palm Beach County School District while the criminal case was pending. The case had been tentatively set for a trial late last month while Rosenfeld and co-counsel Tama Beth Kudman negotiated the plea bargain.