Why Some Receive Judicial Diversion

By: Rob Pratt
By: Rob Pratt

Knoxville (WVLT) - A former Knoxville Catholic teacher gets judicial diversion on a statutory rape charge, meaning she will avoid jail if she can stay out of trouble for four years.

Thirty-five-year-old Dianne Dieterich admitted she had sex with a 17-year-old student and that he is the father of the baby she's now carrying. So, how and why could a former teacher get such a good deal?

Volunteer TV's Rob Pratt, a former practicing attorney, has the story.

For non-violent crimes, people with clean prior records, like Dieterich, often get diversion, but the factor that makes the most difference in deciding who goes to jail may be the attitudes of victims and their families.

Dianne Dieterich walks away from court with a judicial diversion that keeps her out of jail if she stays out of trouble. Who made that decision? Certainly the judge and the district attorney general, but as even Dieterich's lawyer admits, there was another important player.

"This is an opportunity, the judicial diversion, that was achieved with a lot of hard work with input from the victims, their family," attorney Greg Isaacs said.

"The victim is an important consideration in these cases, and they very often reflect that," said Doug Blaze, the associate dean of the UT College of Law.

Doug Blaze is an associate dean at the U.T. College of Law now, but he spent years practicing law in criminal courts. He learned that the client's fate is heavily shaped by the victim, and there's good reason for that.

"There's obviously societal interest, but the victim is the one we are trying to help overcome whatever occurred and develop and continue to mature in the best way possible," Blaze said.

Is there a difference in victim attitude based on the sex of the victim? Associate professor of law Jennifer Hendricks says there has been in the past, with male victims and their families more reluctant to prosecute, but even that's changing.

"I do think that the reaction, more recently, has been that it's just as victimizing and should be treated the same as if the victims were reversed," Hendricks said.

In this case there is also the matter of the child that Dieterich is carrying. Dieterich's lawyer would not comment on what will happen, saying it is a private matter for the family. If and when the child is born, the teenage father could also ask the court to be recognized as the father and to be a part of the child's life.

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  • by Kirstie Location: Knox on Dec 3, 2007 at 09:29 AM
    It is not this boy's fault that the media was all over that school. Maybe rather than forcing him out of the school, we should criticize the media for going to the school in the first place. Previously, i had a lot of respect for the media and believed that they were villified a lot of the time, but after last week's actions and the fact that when the story about Dieterich first broke and WATE camped out on Fox Lonas waiting to pounce on the first unsuspecting student that crossed their path, I have rethought my previous opinion.
  • by chris on Dec 1, 2007 at 05:43 AM
    For some offenses judicial diversion may be appropriate. In cases of child rape there should be more stringent punishment. She should have some prison time,probation,lose her teaching license,be registered as a sex offender. The slap on the hand seems minor.
  • by me2 Location: KCHS on Nov 30, 2007 at 12:01 PM
    I agree with Fedup. The boy & his sister should transfer over break. Yesterday, you would have thought it was Columbine for the police & media presence just before dismissal. You can bet it will be 100 percent worse when that baby is due/born. Mr. Sompayrac needs to do more; ask them to just quietly go. It is SO unfair to the other students and the reputation of the school.
  • by Janie Location: Concord on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:30 AM
    She should have to register as a Sex Offender just as any male would have to do. Thankfully, her teacher's license is suspended forever - even in another state. She also should find her can in jailf or a year or two.
  • by fedup@kchs Location: Knox on Nov 30, 2007 at 09:12 AM
    consent arguments aside, the woman should have to register to preclude her from teaching and future abuse of authority. Everyone at kchs knows who the student is, he will not have normal life there. What parent would let him take their daughter to prom, etc. He should transfer quietly over winter break and spare the other kids the media and police mayhem we had yesterday. Not fair or safe for them. I'm surprised he was not expelled per kchs' policy regarding public scandal. His own boasting exposed this in the first place.


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