Former substitute teacher asks court to move her trial out of Linn County based on pretrial publicity

She claims media coverage prevents her from having fair trial

Mary Elizabeth Haglin
Mary Elizabeth Haglin

Mary Beth Haglin, a former Washington High substitute teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with a student, is asking the court to move her trial out of Linn County based on extensive pretrial publicity, while at the same time she is talking about it on national talk shows, such as an appearance on the Dr. Phil show on Monday.

Haglin, 24, in her motion filed Monday night claims the media coverage since her arrest in July has created “actual prejudice” against her receiving a fair trial.

Haglin is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor, therapist or school employee, an aggravated misdemeanor, the criminal complaint shows.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charge and her trial is set for Nov. 14 in Linn County Associate District Court.

Haglin was arrested and charged in July. According to the complaint, Haglin had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student between Jan. 1 and May 17 while she worked as a substitute teacher at Washington High School.

Haglin, if convicted, faces up to two years in jail and being listed on the sex offender registry for 10 years.

The motion points out the case has been reported by local and national news outlets but many of these “accounts include inaccurate, misleading, prejudicial, irrelevant, sensationalized, and otherwise inadmissible evidence.”


Haglin appeared on Dr. Phil episode on Monday and previously appeared on Inside Edition and Crime Watch Daily shows.

And she has repeatedly admitted to the sexual relationship in interviews with The Gazette and other media outlets. In the fallout over her termination, longtime Principal Ralph Plagman and Associate Principal Mike Johnson resigned from their positions.

Katie Frank, Haglin’s public defender, said prospective jurors in the 6th Judicial District will not be able to give Haglin a fair and impartial trial.

In another motion, also filed late Monday, Frank has asked the court to make the determination, before a trial verdict or plea, that Haglin wasn’t a “school employee” according to the state statute. Frank argues Haglin wasn’t a “school employee” as defined in the statute as a “practitioner” or “teacher.” Haglin was neither. She was a part-time substitute teacher — not an employee or member of the instructional staff of a state high school, Frank states.

A proposed amendment in 2015, which includes a substitute or part-time employee, passed the house and senate but hasn’t been enacted, the motion shows.

Frank also asks the court to determine if Haglin is convicted, would she be eligible for a deferred judgment or suspended sentence and probation according to state law. The code shows the court cannot defer judgment or suspend sentence for anyone convicted of a crime under this statute who is a mandatory reporter and when the victim is under 18 years of age.

Frank argues there are two provisions under this statute and cites a case decided last year in Woodbury County where the judge concluded imposing a mandatory prison sentence under the “broadest reading of these two provisions goes well beyond the intent” of the statute.

Assistant Linn County Attorney Heidi Carmer previously said the way she interprets the statute it prohibits anyone who is a “mandatory reporter” of child abuse from being eligible for probation.


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Carmer hasn’t filed a response to either motions at this time and she wasn’t available for comment on Tuesday.

Iowa State Court Administrator David Boyd recently sent a message to the eight district chief judges and court administrators asking them to remind the judges of each district of the sentencing requirements following an investigation of teachers charged with sexually abusing students in Iowa over the last five years conducted by the Des Moines Register. The investigation found seven teachers were not sentenced to jail or prison time but instead, received probation.




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