Rochelle Cressman was a Titusville Area School District middle school teacher who allegedly had a sexual relationship with a student.
Stevens noted that both sides had gotten closer to a resolution during an August pre-trial hearing. Representing Cressman at the hearing was her attorney, Stephen Colafella. The attorney for the commonwealth was Paula DiGiacomo. Neither attorneys commented regarding the contents of a potential plea deal during or after the hearing.
“My take in March was there was hope we can get a resolution,” said Stevens. He spent a majority of the time Monday explaining to Cressman that the plea deal versus trial dilemma is simply “a math problem.”
Cressman currently faces 21 counts of first-degree felony offenses. She has been charged with 10 counts of statutory sexual assault and 10 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (IDSI), both are Class 1 felonies. Each Class 1 felony charge carries with it a maximum penalty of 20 years. “20 X 20 is a lot,” explained Stevens.
Stevens also made reference several times to Cressman’s trial as “cases like these” explaining to Cressman potential hardship she could face when the public becomes aware of a high-profile case. Stevens explained to Cressman that each count she might be convicted of has a standard range of punishment. For example, Stevens laid out a situation where Cressman is convicted on two counts of IDSI, the standard range of punishment is 8 to 11 years. That punishment isn’t taking into account the other 64 crimes she has been charged with. Stevens asked Cressman’s council if parole boards still operated differently for criminals with similar charges to Cressman’s. Her attorney affirmed to the judge that this is still the case.
Stevens also explained that a judge has the right of allowing her sentences to be served concurrently. He also made a point to tell Cressman that judges “take information into account” when deciding a punishment.
Stevens let Cressman and her attorney know that during a plea sentencing, the judge only has 30 minutes to hear information about the case. During a trial, information will be presented for three to four days about Cressman and her character, and that all the information will impact a judge and their decision. Stevens, however, was adamant that he was not recommending Cressman accept a plea deal and avoid a trial.
Rochelle Cressman was arrested in May 2019 by the Titusville Police Department after they had been made aware of a potential relationship between Cressman and a student. Police allege Cressman was the one that initiated the alleged contact.
Cressman is currently awaiting trial for a total of 66 counts that range from Class 1 felonies, such as statutory sexual assault and IDSI, to Class 2 misdemeanors such as indecent assault. In total, Cressman faces 23 felonies and 43 misdemeanors. There is one charge for terroristic threats.
The alleged sexual assaults lasted nine months from Sept. 2018 to April 2019. According to the arrest affidavit, Cressman and her student met at both her then Oil Creek Township residence, as well as at a house on N. Martin Street.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the trial process, Stevens is confident that the case will be tried in November. Part of the trouble scheduling the case for trial has to do with an out-of-state witness.
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