Former teacher's 90-day jail sentence for attempted child sex assault raises questions

CENTENNIAL -- It's a sentence that is raising more than a few eyebrows.

Former Aurora music teacher Zachary Timbrell pleaded guilty to attempted sex assault on a child and sexual exploitation of a child and was given a 90-day jail sentence. Prosecutors asked for three years in prison.

Online reaction was swift.

One poster, responding to a Denver7 story on the Denver Post website, wrote: "90 days? What a joke."  

Another wrote: "If this were my daughter, he'd better be ready to duck on day 91. Ridiculous."

"With sex assault cases, that happens a lot," said Karmen Carter, executive director of The Blue Bench, Denver's sexual assault prevention and support center.

Carter called the sentence disappointing.

"It sends a message to the victim that my life is not as important as the other person's life," she said. "What happened to me doesn't matter."

Carter said she'd like to see mandatory minimum sentences in cases like this.

"I understand that cases are different, but the reality is that when someone chooses to commit a sexual assault, it's a crime, and those individuals have to be held accountable, or we say to society as a whole, 'that's not such a bad thing,'" she said.  

Prosecutors say Timbrell, 33, of unincorporated Arapahoe County, used his power as a teacher to have an ongoing sexual relationship with the 17-year old student, and that he committed sexual acts at the school and at hotels out of town.

During his sentencing hearing, the victim, now 19, read a statement in court that said in part: "I can't describe how dirty and broken and filthy I feel. This man is sick. He knew he would lose everything if discovered but he did it anyway."

She added, "This man is a sexual predator and has changed my life forever... It cannot be forgotten or swept under the rug or treated with just a few months in therapy."

In addition to the 90-day jail sentence, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Ben Leutwyler sentenced Timbrell to 5 years of sex offender intensive supervised probation.

Timbrell is not allowed to have contact with children under the age of 18 (his own children are exempted) and no access to computers or the internet.

He must also register as a sex offender.

The former teacher, who worked at Vista Peak Preparatory School until June of 2016, agreed to give up his teaching license.

"That's a good thing, but does that mean he won't find a job teaching in another state? None of us know that," Carter said. "Does that mean he won't end up offending other children in another situation? We don't know that either."

Carter said people who commit sexual assault should be held accountable.

She doesn't believe a 90-day jail sentence does that.

"It's not the same as several years in prison," she said.

In handing down the sentence, the judge noted that Timbrell took responsibility for his actions to an extent rarely seen by other offenders.

The former teacher said he regretted the hurt he caused the victim and his own family.

He has a wife and two children.  

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