A former Twin Falls teacher was acquitted on a rape charge Wednesday, even though he admitted having sex with a 17-year-old student.
Jason Benjamin was charged under a state law covering a sexual relationship involving a 16- or 17-year-old victim and a perpetrator at least three years older than the victim. Benjamin was 39 in October, when he admitted having sex with the underage student, Gretel Kauffman of the Twin Falls Times-News reported Wednesday.
Benjamin was a former teacher at Twin Falls’ Canyon View High School, who took a job at Twin Falls’ Robert Stuart Middle School in 2017-18.
Deputy prosecutor Suzanne Ehlers said Benjamin was a “willing participant” in the encounter, but could have stopped the relationship beforehand, Kauffman reported. Defense attorney Doug Nelson did not deny Benjamin and the student had had a sexual encounter, Kauffman reported, but he urged jurors to exercise “common sense” in rendering a verdict.
After the two hours of deliberation, the jury’s foreman spoke to Kauffman about the decision.
“We just felt that we couldn’t throw this guy’s life away, when in our definition she wasn’t raped,” said the foreman, identified only as “Jason.” “He made a mistake, but we don’t feel that he’s a predator and he’s going to be out there raping girls.”