By Mark Caudill
MANSFIELD - A former Richland County Sheriff’s deputy tried to hide his sexual relationship with a student while he was teaching at Pioneer Career and Technology Center.
Michael Gouge, 47, was sentenced Monday to one year in prison for sexual battery. He pleaded guilty in June.
Richland County Common Pleas Judge James DeWeese said Gouge was not forthcoming when Pioneer officials confronted him about rumors of the relationship.
“You said the only contact you had ever had with her was one phone call and one text message related to a class assignment,” DeWeese said. “That was a patent falsehood.”
Authorities recovered more than 1,700 text messages and nearly 17 hours of phone calls. The relationship took place over the course of five months while Gouge was teaching in the criminal justice program. He left the sheriff’s office in 2010 for a position at Pioneer.
The victim and her family did not attend Monday’s hearing, but wanted Gouge to get prison time, said Assistant Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page.
The female student was 18, but Ohio law prohibits any kind of sexual relationship between a student and teacher.
“His choices were interesting based on his law enforcement background,” Couch Page said. “I’ve worked with Mike. It’s astounding to me that he would have crossed this line.”
Wearing a blue dress shirt and khaki pants, Gouge briefly addressed the court, saying he was ashamed. He also apologized to his family, friends and colleagues.
Defense attorney Charlie Robinson said Gouge spent 15 years at the sheriff’s office and 17 years in the military.
“This unfortunate incident has destroyed his life,” Robinson said. “He’s lost his career. He has been humiliated.”
Gouge resigned from Pioneer.
“He was not an ordinary teacher. He was really exceptional,” Robinson said. “This was a position he loved and cared about.”
Robinson said Gouge has accepted responsibility for his actions.
“He realizes he’s the one who’s totally at fault,” the defense attorney said. “This crime wouldn’t have been a crime if it had happened 79 days later (after graduation).”
Robinson said Gouge has been beset by personal problems. His father recently died, and his mother is dying, Robinson said.
“Incarceration will in no way benefit society,” Robinson said.
In addition, Robinson said, Gouge suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from a July 2007 fatal crash in which he struck a pedestrian with his cruiser.
Gouge was operating with emergency lights and siren as he headed to a reported fight at Twin Lakes Golf Course when he struck Adam Marchant, 31. Gouge was cleared of any wrongdoing.
DeWeese was not swayed and declared Gouge a Tier III sex offender, meaning he will have to register with the county sheriff where he lives every 90 days for life.