FORT WAYNE – His wife wanted him home. His attorney argued he didn’t belong behind bars.
But after all the tears and the pleading, 34-year-old Damion Jackson was sentenced to four years in prison for sexually abusing students from North Side High School, where he worked.
In October, Jackson pleaded guilty to a single charge of child exploitation and three counts of child seduction, all felonies. The plea agreement reached with prosecutors called for the dismissal of seven other charges, including child seduction and furnishing alcohol to minors, and a prison sentence capped at four years.
The parents of one of his victims sat quietly in the back of the courtroom, watching as one side of the room filled with Jackson’s supporters and family. Jackson’s wife, Katie Jackson, an administrator at East Allen County Schools, cried through much of the hearing. Her father, IPFW ethics professor William Bruening, cried on the stand as he spoke of Damion Jackson’s love for the couple’s four children and how they had strengthened their family life since his arrest on the charges earlier this year.
According to court documents and testimony, Jackson worked as a contracted instructor with WorkOne’s Jobs for America’s Graduates program at North Side High School.
From June 2011 until the investigation began in mid-January, Jackson had sexual contact with three different girls, often plying them with alcohol in area hotel rooms.
One of the teen girls identified Jackson to others as her boyfriend, celebrating her birthday with him at a local hotel at 3:30 p.m. and drinking wine and two bottles of cognac Jackson brought to the room. Another girl in the room told police she was so drunk she was vomiting. Jackson sexually assaulted her and then screamed in her face, saying he couldn’t “be responsible for all of this,” according to court documents.
Jackson was accused of taking multiple pictures and videos of the sexual contact with the girls, and sent pictures of his own genitals to one of them, according to court documents.
Another girl told police that “every time they were together, there was always sex and he always provided alcohol,” according to court documents.
Jackson’s attorney, David Glickfield, asked Jackson’s wife and father-in-law about the changes they had seen in him since his arrest.
As she described how their family had grown closer together since Jackson’s behavior was uncovered, Katie Jackson said she felt it would be too hard on her children for him to be away from them in prison.
“The kids will be crushed if he goes away,” she said. “He has got to come home. We can’t do that to our kids.”
For his part, Jackson said his actions were selfish. When asked how he realized his behavior was wrong, Jackson said again it was selfish and wrong.
Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille said Jackson did not end the behavior with the teens until he was caught. One of the victims expressed concern that some of the videos taken by Jackson were never recovered.
The teens were afraid of the videos reappearing in the future, he said.
Neither Jackson nor his attorney offered any additional information about the videos during the hearing.
Glickfield asked Gull to sentence Jackson to probation and took issue with Chaille’s arguments.
“All you ever hear from the state is bad, bad, bad,” Glickfield said, adding his client had changed.
But Gull put the blame for the difficulties experienced by Jackson’s children and family squarely on his shoulders.
“Shame on you,” she said, “for putting your family in that position.”
Reading from a letter written by one of the victims, Gull asked Jackson how he would feel if his own daughters had been taken advantage of by an educator in that way.
Gull sentenced Jackson to four years in prison and two years on probation.
As she sentenced him, he broke down in sobs, tossed a soggy tissue on the defense table and put his head on his arms. His wife also cried, comforted by the women surrounding her.