BROOKSVILLE — A former Hernando County teacher stood without any outward emotion Thursday morning as he pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with a 17-year-old female student.
Timothy Brightbill, 43, a former band director at Nature Coast Technical High School, withdrew his original plea of not guilty and put his punishment in the hands of Circuit Judge Jack Springstead.
Springstead delayed sentencing until Aug. 20. Brightbill, a husband and a father of one child, faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. The minimum sentence is nine years and two months in jail.
The judge let him remain free on bond after the prosecutor agreed to the defense request.
Prosecutors said the victim, now 18, does not want him to go to prison, and Brightbill's attorney is asking for a lesser punishment because he has no criminal history. The young woman did not appear in court, but her mother attended the hearing.
Springstead typically gives the minimum sentence allowed under the guidelines in such cases. He rarely, if ever, goes below the state guidelines, as Brightbill's attorney requested.
"We're hoping to push for more than the minimum (sentence)," said Assistant State Attorney Brian Trehy.
The defense filed a motion saying the girl was a willing participant in all of the romantic and sexual activity during the two-year affair. In statements made to deputies, the student said she was "in love" with Brightbill.
Authorities arrested Brightbill on Dec. 31 after the girl's mother found him in her house lying on top of her daughter, both in their underwear, according to reports.
Deputies said Brightbill and the girl, a former music student, admitted to engaging in sexual acts on two occasions, and Brightbill later resigned from the school.
At the hearing, Trehy dropped one the sex charges against Brightbill because the victim did not remember the incident in a May deposition.
Before his arrest in 2007, Brightbill was reprimanded by his principal, Margaret Schoelles, for publishing lewd pictures on MySpace.com, a popular social networking Web site. According to a note written by Schoelles, the teacher was also asked to remove his online connections with current Nature Coast students.
Ryan Strong can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.