Interest charge

Former PRLHS teacher faces lewd conduct charge

SANDPOINT — A former Priest River Lamanna High School teacher has been remanded to First District Court to face a lewd conduct charge.

On Wednesday, Judge Patrick McFadden found probable cause in the District Trial Court to bind Sarai Lynn McCormick, 37, to events that allegedly took place Oct. 30 at a Halloween party.

Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Lepire called four witnesses during Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, including the victim.

“I didn’t think she was actually coming,” the victim said on the stand. “I thought it was just a joke.”

McCormick drove to the private residence in Priest River. The four people who were called to testify are attending or have graduated from high school. They testified that McCormick brought alcohol to the party and was visibly intoxicated when she arrived.

“She told us to call her ‘Sarai’ and our ‘friend’ and not ‘Mrs. McCormick’ or our ‘teacher’,” a witness said.

Although court proceedings are public, witnesses and the victim will not be named in the interests of their privacy.

“We all thought it was just cool that our teacher was there, we thought it was like a high school movie,” another witness said.

A third witness testified to helping McCormick to her vehicle, physically supporting her as they walked before the victim took over to help McCormick.

A small group of people left the party to search for McCormick and the victim. A witness said the two were found in the back seat of McCormick’s vehicle after a participant opened the rear door of the SUV.

“I guess when you have a group of teenagers who have their teacher at a party, and you see them in the back of a car on top of each other, it really wasn’t a question of what that was happening. I mean, it was pretty obvious,” the witness said.

Shortly after the hiatus, McCormick left the scene. The victim testified that this is when the assault took place.

McCormick dropped off the victim a short distance from the residence some time later, but did not join the party.

Many party attendees spent the night at the residence. Upon waking the next morning, the victim seemed upset, according to reports.

“He either seemed upset or full of regret and asked us to delete photos or anything from the party,” one of the witnesses said.

The others agreed that everyone involved would delete anything created the night before, even going so far as to say the gathering was not a party.

“She told me we could really fuck her or throw her under the bus,” an eyewitness said of a one-on-one exchange with McCormick at school the following week. “She was very relieved that we were taking her side of the situation.”

Although McCormick is 37 and the victim is too young to consent, the victim appears to take responsibility for the alleged assault.

“If anyone was going to get in trouble, I wanted it to be me,” the victim said.

McCormick is currently being held in Bonner County Jail. She is due to appear for arraignment before First District Judge Lamont Berecz on April 28. The maximum penalty for lewd conduct is life in prison and a $50,000 fine.

It is not uncommon for victims of sexual assault to feel guilty for the crimes committed against them, according to a scholarly article published by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. In Idaho, anyone under the age of 16 is not able to consent, regardless of their involvement in the assault. Sexual acts involving minors are illegal and there is no statute of limitations for reporting crimes of this nature.

LillyBrooke Family Justice Center is a local agency that advocates for victims on their behalf. Victims are also assisted in the recovery process by being put in contact with qualified professionals. LillyBrooke can be reached 24/7 by calling 208-265-3586.