Former Collier teacher to serve 40 years in prison for sex with student

Published: June 21, 2021 10:06 AM EDT
Updated: June 21, 2021 5:19 PM EDT

A former Collier County teacher was sentenced to 80 years on Monday for exchanging sexually explicit texts and having sex with a 14-year-old student. He’ll serve 40 of those years in prison.

Joseph Mejia, 39, of Bonita Springs, was found guilty of four counts of lewd or lascivious battery after a five-day jury trial.

He taught at Gulf Coast Charter Academy in Naples and met with the student several times.

On Monday, the victim read a nearly 5-minute victim impact statement before sentencing, detailing how Mejia gained her trust before turning their relationship sexual.

“Speaking up about Mejia raping me was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It didn’t always seem that way though,” she said. “He pulled me out of school and tore me away from friends I’d grown to love. Everyone stood by him too. I was a whore. I was the one who’d had sex with a teacher.”

On the other side, Mejia’s family told the judge he’s not a Monster.

Mejia himself said in a last-minute plea, “Very regretful. I’ve never done anything like this before in my life … I plea for mercy in regards to my sentence,” with his mother adding “God says forgive us! If you want to be forgiven.”

Judge Joseph Foster, Collier County Circuit Judge said in response, “Forgiveness is between God and your son and God and the victim and her family and that’s not for me to grant or deny in any way shape or form in this courtroom.”

He was sentenced to 20 years on each count, with two to run consecutive and two to run concurrently, leading to a 40-year sentence.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of years to be served in prison.