A former Madison C-3 School substitute teacher was sentenced to state prison on Thursday for possessing child pornography.
Tenth Circuit Court Judge Rachel Bring Shepherd ordered Ty Gramley, 28, of Columbia, to a five-year sentence for one felony count of possession of child pornography. He had faced a maximum sentence of seven years on the felony count during Thursday's hearing in the Monroe County Courthouse in Paris.
Shepherd also sentenced Gramley to one-year sentences in county jail to be served concurrently for misdemeanor counts of furnishing pornographic material or attempt to furnish pornographic material to a minor who was an underclass student in a class that he was teaching at Madison High during March 2019.
In February, Gramley entered an Alford plea, where a defendant does not admit guilt in all the charges but tells the court that the prosecution will likely achieve a guilty verdict if the case goes to trial. Gramley now must register as a sex offender.
During the sentencing hearing, Gramley's attorney, Clark Jones of Columbia, urged Shepherd to sentence him to five years of probation. Jones argued that Gramley did not realize the student was under 18 years old.
“He made a tremendous mistake,” Jones said, adding that Gramley had no previous criminal history. “He is a young man with his whole life ahead of him.”
However, Shepherd said that Gramley violated what she called a “bright line in our community” to entrust teachers with watching after the welfare of students and said that he had not taken full responsibility for his crime.
Shepherd told Gramley that to be considered for parole, he would have to complete a sex offender program that is conducted by the Missouri Department of Corrections.
“The denial you have been making would make it difficult for you to complete the program,” Shepherd said as she pronounced sentence.
Gramley was an employee of Kelly Educational Services when he was charged with providing pornographic videos and photos to a minor female student while he was working as a substitute teacher at the Madison C-3 School District between March 1 and March 29, 2019. Kelly has a contract to provide substitute teachers for several school districts in the area.
Monroe County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Joe Colston said that he went to Madison School on March 29 after receiving a call from the principal, Bryant Jones, whom he said reported “inappropriate communication between a student and a substitute teacher.”
Colston reported that the student said she had been sending and receiving sexually explicit text messages, photos and videos with Gramley, adding that she met Gramley while he was working as a substitute teacher in the Madison School District.
“(The female student) stated that the exchanges had been made via Facebook Messenger,” wrote Colston. “Both (the student) and her mother agreed to allow me to view the Facebook Messenger conversation on (the student's) cellular phone.”
“There was no indication in the conversation that I observed indicating that Gramley conveyed any concern about the images he was receiving,” Colston wrote.
Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Smith said that close cooperation between the school and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office was critical to quickly bringing charges against Gramley.
“I would like to thank the administration of the Madison C-3 school district for their complete and continued cooperation throughout this case,” Smith said. “I would also like to thank Chief Deputy Joe Colston for his tireless work investigating this case. His investigative skill and experience in this case, as in so many others, is the reason we're able to hold these offenders accountable and ensure that they do not remain in the community.”
Last month, during a hearing, the victim said in a written statement provided to the court that she has suffered emotionally since her encounter with Gramley.
“I just regret even talking to him in the first place because I know if I didn't things wouldn't be like this today. I wouldn't feel like such a bad person if things were different,” she said in the statement. “All I can even say to remotely describe how I feel is that I am a bomb waiting to go off. I don't know when, where or even how the worst of this will hit me but I know someday it will.”
The experience also has taken a physical toll, she said.
“I've gained quite a bit of weight. I eat when I'm sad to make myself feel better and then I'm sad because of how I look. It's a vicious cycle,” she said. “Not only that, but I've physically hurt myself over this. I've had a long history with burning and cutting myself to deal with my strong emotions and I've coped with some of my emotions by doing that. I honestly don't remember how many times I've hurt myself because of my emotions but I know I have.”
In his February plea hearing, Gramley disputed charges that he was aware the student was under 18 years old.
In a victim impact statement on behalf of Madison Schools. Jones said case had caused upheaval in the small western Monroe County community.
“When I was made aware of the possibility that one of our children had been violated by Mr. Gramley, my heart immediately sank. While instances of this kind of abuse are far too common, we at Madison never, to my knowledge, have been so close to an incident,” Jones said. “The idea of any child being abused in this manner makes my heart break.”
Jones said that he reviewed messaged and photographs in the victim's telephone that had been sent by Gramley and immediately called in Monroe County Sheriff's Department investigators.
He said “a sense of shock, sadness and then anger came over the school and town” as the news spread across the state and the nation, along with the disruption to the school's students and teachers.
“While time has helped the trauma of Mr. Gramley's actions, they have had an immeasurable impact on the emotional health and education of every students,” Jones said. “When parents and families send a child to school, they expect them to be safe and taken care of…this responsibility falls on a substitute teacher the same as it does on any other teacher or administrator. When Mr. Gramley chose to violate our student, he severely damaged the trust and confidence that our parents and stakeholders had in our ability to provide a safe setting for their children to grow.”
Following the sentencing hearing on Thursday, Gramley was placed in handcuffs by a deputy to be immediately taken to the Department of Corrections.