Former Fresno High School teacher Darren Klassen pleaded no contest Monday to having unlawful sex with a student and agreed to spend five years and eight months in state prison.
A criminal complaint charged Klassen with 37 felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, oral copulation, sexual penetration and a lewd act with a minor.
In a plea agreement, Klassen, 46, pleaded no contest to five felony charges. In exchange for his plea, the prosecution dismissed the remaining counts.
As part of the plea, Klassen has to register as a sex offender, Superior Court Judge Brian Alvarez said.
He recognizes that he has committed a number of transgressions and he’s very sorry about it.
Fresno defense lawyer Roger Nuttall
“He stepped up to the plate,” Fresno defense lawyer Roger Nuttall said outside court, referring to his client taking responsibility for his actions.
“He recognizes that he has committed a number of transgressions and he’s very sorry about it,” Nuttall said. “He feels bad for what he did to the victim and her family and his own family.”
Prosecutor Rick Thomas described the plea agreement as a fair resolution and said the victim and her family “are on board with it.”
Klassen will be sentenced on May 16. Until then, he will be held without bail in the Fresno County Jail, Alvarez said.
The former teacher was arrested Sept. 24 after the girl at Fresno High, who has since graduated, told her parents about her sexual relationship with Klassen. Her parents then notified police.
In a prior hearing, Thomas told the judge that Klassen also had a prior inappropriate relationship with an 18-year-old student at Madera South High, where he taught for more than a decade before coming to Fresno High.
Klassen ended up marrying the Madera South student and has two children with her. Court records say his wife filed for divorce in October and has sole custody of their children.
A Fresno police detective’s affidavit says the girl began having a relationship with Klassen when she was a 15-year-old Fresno High freshman.
A Fresno police detective’s affidavit says the Fresno High girl began having a relationship with Klassen when she was a 15-year-old freshman. Shortly after she turned 16 in November 2013, she started having sex with Klassen, the affidavit says. She said the first encounter was in his classroom. She told detectives it was the first time she had sexual relations with anyone.
The affair then escalated to having sex with Klassen three to five days a week in the 2014-15 school year, the girl told detectives.
The girl told police that during the relationship she sent hundreds of sexually provocative photographs of herself to Klassen via text messages. At the direction of a detective, the girl called Klassen, who admitted in the recorded telephone call to having sex with the girl.
A criminal complaint alleges the unlawful sex began in November 2013 and ended in July 2015. In the plea agreement, Klassen pleaded no contest to crimes that happened from Nov. 1, 2013, to Jan. 31, 2014.
Nuttall said Klassen had no prior criminal record and the plea agreement was the result of more than a month of negotiations with the prosecution. Nuttall wanted Klassen to get probation, but prosecutors insisted on a prison sentence and sex-offender registration, he said.
If Klassen had been convicted at trial, he could have faced more than 20 years in prison.
“This is a compromise,” Nuttall said.