(Stillwater, Okla.) — Former Yale High School math teacher and coach Joseph Kolt Palmer, 29, was sentenced last week to serve 180 days in the Payne County Jail, with no trusty credit, followed by six and one-half years of probation for sexting a then-17-year-old female student in 2016, a felony charge to which he had pleaded guilty on Jan. 2.
Payne County Associate District Judge Stephen Kistler told Palmer in court, “Make sure you check in with the Payne County Jail today,” an order with which Palmer complied, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
As part of a plea agreement with the prosecution approved by the judge last week, Palmer must provide a DNA sample, pay $1,610 in fines and assessments and comply with the Sex Offender Registration Act at level two.
Palmer must register as a sex offender for 25 years, Payne County Assistant District Attorney Debra Vincent said, “A felony conviction and that designation should keep him out of any classrooms, at least that is our hope,” the prosecutor added.
In accordance with the plea bargain, a count of second-degree rape was dropped last week by the District Attorney’s Office, which advised the judge in court, “the victim is aware of the recommendation.”
Palmer had been arrested in the Payne County case on Sept. 20, 2016, by sheriff’s deputies in Kaufman County, Texas, according to a news release from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Palmer had reportedly been teaching in Texas. Palmer had been free on $10,000 bail until Tuesday afternoon when he began serving his jail sentence.
On Aug. 20, 2018, the judge had ruled that statements made by Palmer to an OSBI agent regarding his relationship with a then-17-year-old female Yale High School student could be admitted into evidence at his jury trial in January, which Palmer avoided by accepting a plea bargain with the prosecution.
“There were no threats, no promises, no coercion, no deception by the interviewing agent,” made to Palmer when he spoke to OSBI Agent Richard Brown in 2016, the judge had ruled at the close of a 40-minute hearing last August.
After the original sexting charge was filed, which was later amended to include a second-degree rape count, Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas told the Yale News in an e-mail, “This is a very serious charge. We don’t want this defendant to ever be able to teach again, and that is our primary goal.
“The (Yale) school itself handled the matter promptly and well from this end. The criminal side took more time and we needed cell phone records.
“I think anyone who reads them will have a clear picture of what was occurring with this victim. It’s entirely possible there are other victims,” the DA added.
The case was investigated by the OSBI on the request of Yale Police Chief Phillip Kelly for assistance on May 2, 2016, according to the agent’s affidavit.
When Palmer was interviewed by the OSBI agent four days later, he said he had received his teaching degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond in May 2015, the affidavit said.
Three months later, Palmer was hired as a full-time math teacher and coach for Yale High School, the affidavit said. Palmer was the assistant coach for the boys’ football team and the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, the affidavit said.
“Palmer was married and had one child with another one on the way,” the affidavit said.
While teaching at Yale High School, Palmer met a 17-year-old Yale High School junior, the affidavit said.
The student provided Palmer with her cell phone number and the two “would talk with each other via cell phone calls and text messaging during school hours and after school hours,” the affidavit said.
Palmer admitted to the OSBI agent that he used his iphone6 to send inappropriate text messages to the student about touching her in sexual ways and about having sexual intercourse with her, the affidavit said.
“Palmer felt he violated his responsibilities as a teacher by allowing himself to have a relationship and sending inappropriate text messages,” with the Yale student, the affidavit said.
“Palmer felt he should have never allowed the relationship to have started,” with the student, the affidavit said.