A former Cuyahoga Falls High School counselor who was sent to prison for having sex with a 17-year-old male student says she now realizes she — and not other people — is to blame for her actions.
"I accept full responsibility for my decisions and wish I could go back and change them," Rebecca Sparrow, 37, said in a letter to a Summit County judge asking that she be released early from prison.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones, who sentenced Sparrow to two years in prison in late January, had a hearing Monday afternoon about whether Sparrow should be released after having served about seven months of her two-year sentence. Sparrow pleaded guilty to one count of sexual battery and faced up to five years in prison for the 2016 incident.
During the sentencing, Jones called Sparrow’s behavior "perverse."
Prosecutors say the student was referred to Sparrow because his parents were going through a divorce and he had expressed suicidal thoughts. Instead of helping the student, prosecutors say, she repeatedly had sex with him.
Mike Callahan, Sparrow’s attorney, said at the time of her sentencing that he would request her early release as soon as she had served the required six months before this step will be considered. He filed the request Aug. 6.
Callahan said Monday that his client has had no infractions during her time in prison and has completed several programs. He said she has no prior criminal record.
"She has paid a big price already for her actions," he said of Sparrow, who can no longer work as a school counselor.
Prosecutors, however, said they think Sparrow hasn’t spent enough time behind bars.
"The state believes more time would be sufficient for her actions," said Assistant Prosecutor Felicia Easter.
Easter, however, said she wouldn’t object if Jones allowed Sparrow to proceed to the second phase required for an early prison release in which Sparrow would be brought back from prison and given the opportunity to speak. Easter said she’d be interested to hear directly from Sparrow about whether she is remorseful.
In Sparrow’s hand-written letter to Jones, she said during her time being incarcerated she has attended Codependents Anonymous meetings and learned about developing "healthy boundaries" in her relationships. She said she has attended Bible study sessions and moved into a faith-based dormitory.
Sparrow said she has completed programs on several topics, including real estate, creative writing, entrepreneurship and environmental literacy. She said she has also tutored students working on getting their GEDs.
"While my time at NERC (Northeast Reintegration Center) has been difficult, it has also been beneficial to my personal growth and healing; however, I am confident that I am prepared to return home to my family and truly be a productive member of society," Sparrow wrote.
If Sparrow is released from prison, Callahan said she will initially live with her mother in Cuyahoga Falls. Sparrow and her husband have divorced and he has custody of their two children. Callahan said Sparrow will have visitation rights when she is freed.
Jones said she will take Sparrow’s request under advisement.
Jones designated Sparrow a Tier 3 sex offender. This means Sparrow will be required to register her address every 90 days for the rest of her life.
The student wasn’t in court for Sparrow’s sentencing or for the hearing on Monday. He has told prosecutors he wants to move on with his life.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.