MERCED - A Livingston High teacher charged with having sex with her teenage student was released from jail Monday afternoon after a Merced County judge reduced her bail by 70 percent.
Judge Marc Garcia lowered defendant Melody Carter-McCabe’s bail from $250,000 to $75,000 after hearing arguments from attorneys on both sides during a bail review hearing Monday morning.
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Carter-McCabe’s attorney, said she was able to afford the reduced bail amount.
Carter-McCabe had spent nine days in lockdown, for her protection, at the John Latorraca Correctional Center. Tenenbaum said his client will be residing with a friend in Merced.
Shackled at the waist and wearing a yellow jailhouse uniform, Carter- McCabe wept intermittently during Monday’s hearing, as her parents looked on from the audience. The 27-year-old ag teacher was arrested June 1 and faces nine felony counts of unlawful sex with the boy, who was 15 years old in September 2010 when authorities say the 11-month relationship began. The boy is now 17 years old.
According to sheriff’s reports, the teacher was the boy’s FFA mentor. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains on paid administrative leave from her school district job.
Tenenbaum requested that Garcia lower the bail, saying his client would stay away from the teen and from Livingston High School. Tenenbaum reminded the court that his client has not been convicted.
“These are allegations against my client made by one person,” Tenenbaum said. “There are validated gang members accused of robbery at the jail who have lower bail.”
Deputy District Attorney Monika Saini argued that the $250,000 bail was reasonable, saying Carter- McCabe violated a position of trust.
Saini expressed concern that the defendant might try to contact the boy. The prosecutor added that the boy’s mother was worried about his safety, should the defendant be released.
Carter-McCabe manipulated the boy, according to Saini, and he was under the impression they’d get married one day. “I believe the nature of these crimes are very serious,” Saini said.
Garcia decided to lower the bail, saying the teen appears to be living in a secure environment with his family. Garcia also said the defendant’s contact with the boy appears to have ended prior to the Merced County sheriff’s investigation, which was launched in March.
After Monday’s bail hearing, Tenenbaum said he was appreciative of Garcia’s decision to lower his client’s bail. “She will take her responsibilities to be in court very seriously,” Tenenbaum said.
Not everyone, however, was pleased with the judge’s decision.
The teen’s 49-year-old father said the defendant is a threat to the public and should remain in jail. The father, whose name isn’t being released to protect his son’s identity, said if the defendant were a male, the judge probably wouldn’t be as lenient.
“This thing has been going on for 11 months or so, and during that time it’s not like she did it (just) once or twice. She knew what she was doing,” the father said. “Having sex with a minor is having sex with a minor. Whether it’s male or female, they should be treated the same.”
The father said he wasn’t surprised the defendant was released on bail. “She’s got a good lawyer, I hear, and she’s going to try and get out of it with the least amount of damage as possible,” he said.
Under the terms of her bail, Carter-McCabe must have no further contact with the boy and must stay out of Livingston. She can’t have any contact with minors, other than her 6-year-old son, Garcia said.
In addition, the judge ordered that she cannot use the Internet for purposes other than finding a job. She is prohibited from using Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking website.
Prosecutors say Carter-McCabe could spend as much as 12 years in prison if convicted on all counts. Her next hearing is scheduled for June 25.