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UTAH STATE PRISON — Andrea Billingsley, a former teacher's aide convicted of having sexual contact with two teenage boys, admits that right up until the time she was sent to prison, she remained in denial.
Earlier this month, Billingsley, 38, who was convicted of three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of rape, had her first parole hearing at the Utah State Prison. She was asked what caused her attitude to change between 2010 and now.
"Honestly, the guilt of doing what I've done. The shame. The embarrassment was very hard to admit to it. But it was such a relief when I finally got sentenced and I realized, 'Here I am finally being punished and deserving the punishment. I'm ready.' I don't know why it took me so long to be ready for it. But I'm ready. I need the treatment. I know it. I've done irreparable damage," she said.
Billingsley was in charge of watching students serving in-school suspensions at West Jordan Middle School. In 2009, she said she began flirting with one of the students. That flirting, she said in an audio recording of her parole hearing held on Dec. 6, included showing the teen explicit photos of herself on her phone. After school ended for the year, she continued seeing her victims during the summer.
She was convicted of having sexual contact with two boys, ages 15 and 16. At least one incident happened in the classroom and another inside her car at a local park.
Billingsley was given four sentences of five years to life, all to run concurrently. Under the current guidelines, Kathy Crawford, who conducted the parole hearing, said Billingsley would likely stay in prison until at least 2022.
Crawford noted that Billingsley — a mother of two teen boys of her own at the time of sentencing — had talked about problems with her husband. But at the parole hearing, she pressed Billingsley to help her better understand what led up to, and why she chose to engage in her illegal behavior.
"Honestly, I can't look back and say, 'Oh, this is where the flip came from.' I'm hoping that being in treatment will help me to learn and understand from it. Honestly, I don't know. Because this wasn't typical of me. It was definitely an anomaly," she said.
Billingsley is currently on medication for bipolar disorder and depression while in prison, Crawford said. Billingsley claimed she was diagnosed with those symptoms in 2008 but didn't do anything about it because she didn't want to believe it.
The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will require that Billingsley successfully complete sex offender treatment before they will consider releasing her from prison, Crawford said. Billingsley said she looked forward to it.
The first time Billingsley was arrested in her life was for the sex allegations. After she was convicted and while she was waiting to be sentenced, she was convicted of marijuana possession and twice for DUI. Crawford asked if she also needed to enroll in substance abuse treatment.
"That actually hasn't been a problem in my life until I knew (I was going to prison), because the lying and knowing what I'd done, having everything on my conscience and not getting in treatment, not doing anything to help or change the behavior was very hard. I did start trying to help myself by drinking and staying high," she said.
Billingsley claimed once she came to terms with what she had done, she didn't need to use drugs or alcohol.
She has been written up at least five times for violating prison rules, including for punching another female inmate that she claimed was bullying her about her crime.
"It gets to a point after being bullied for so long that I'd had enough of her," she said. "I was angry for a long time, and I was very reactive."
Family members of Billingsley were at the parole hearing for support. At least one of the victims and his family also attended the hearing.
The full five-member board is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks about when to grant Billingsley another hearing.