A prosecutor in Alabama is alleging that the marriage between a then 37-year-old former teacher and an 18-year-old recent high school graduate was a ploy to avoid testifying at trial.
Matthew Wester faces a charge of sexual relations with a student over his relationship with Amy Cox, media reports say.
Wester was indicted by a grand jury in January 2015 for having "intentionally and knowingly engaged with a male or female student under the age of 19 in sexual contact which was done for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party, to wit - kissing and spending the night with the victim," AL.com reported.
Around the same time, Wester divorced his wife of 17 years and agreed that she would have custody of their child. Divorce papers showed that Wester initiated the break-up from his wife Kelly, stating that there had been an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, the Daily Mail reports.
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“On June 13, 2015, just 67 days following the divorce from ‘wife no. 1’, and less than five months prior to the initial trial setting in this matter, the defendant married the student whom he subjected to sexual contact while he was a teacher and she was student,” Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey wrote in a pre-trial motion. “It is the state’s position that the marriage to the student is a sham by the defendant to prevent the student from testifying against him.”
A provision in Alabama law states that a husband and wife cannot be compelled to testify against each other at trial.
However, Casey argues this should not apply to Wester’s trial, because his wife was the victim of the alleged crime. She contends that a number of cases in federal court have waived this provision in similar circumstances.
“Clearly if a 38-year-old teacher can induce an 18-year-old student to engage in sexual contact with him, and to subsequently marry him, he can persuade someone who has already fallen victim to his influence that she must protect him at trial,” Casey wrote.
The prosecution had intended Cox to be the main witness.
“The only person who could put him in jail is now his wife. She is not going to give evidence against her husband. Why would she see him jailed?” a former colleague told the Daily Mail.
The trial is due to commence April 25. The maximum penalty for the charge is a year in prison.